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Children Born in 2001 First Results from the Base Year of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) - Introduction


The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in collaboration with several health, education and human services agencies is conducting a new study, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B). The ECLS-B selected a national sample of children, born in the year 2001, to follow from birth through first grade.

The National Center for Health Statistics, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Office of Minority Health, the Office of Special Education Programs, and the Office of Indian Education are working collaboratively with NCES on the design and implementation of this study. Sponsoring institutes from NIH are the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Nursing Research, the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research.

The ECLS-B is part of a longitudinal studies program comprised of two cohorts-a birth cohort and a kindergarten cohort. Together, these cohorts provide the depth and breadth of data required to describe children's health, early learning, development, and education experiences.The kindergarten cohort study (ECLS-K) measures aspects of children's development and their environments (home and school) as they enter school for the first time and examines how these aspects relate to their academic achievement and experiences through the fifth grade. 1 The birth cohort study (ECLS-B) focuses on those characteristics of children and their families, as well as children's early health care and in-home and out-of-home experiences, that relate to children's first experiences with the demands of formal school (i.e., kindergarten and first grade). It provides important information about the way America raises, nurtures, and prepares its children for school.

This study was designed to inform an array of issues and research questions pertaining to children's early education, development, and care. Issues that can be addressed over the life of the study include:

  • What are children's skills and abilities at different ages during the first six years of life? What are most children in the United States able to do in the domains of physical, cognitive, socioemotional, and language development at key points during these first years of life? Do the knowledge, skills, and behaviors children demonstrate differ by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, family structure, and other child and family characteristics?
  • How do children's early health care and health status, including characteristics of children at birth (e.g., low birth weight, multiple birth, and premature birth), relate to their preparedness for formal school? Which groups of children seem to have more developmental difficulties and to what extent are involvement in early intervention, early childhood education programs, and health promotion and prevention programs associated with positive growth and development for the most vulnerable children?
  • When do children first receive regular care from someone other than their parents? What are the characteristics of this care? How do parents make choices in determining both the timing of this care and the nature of the child care arrangements? At what point do parents decide to place their preschool-age child in an early childhood program? What are the characteristics of the programs that children attend? What factors do parents consider in making this decision and in evaluating alternative programs?
  • What role do fathers play in early child care and child-rearing and how does their involvement with their children and the family relate to children's school readiness? What role do resident and nonresident fathers play? Are there characteristics of fathers that are associated with individual differences in children's preparedness for school, independent of mother characteristics?
1 This paper is focused on the ECLS birth cohort study. More information on the ECLS kindergarten cohort study is available from NCES at the ECLS website ( For the ECLS-K, base-year data were collected from a nationally representative sample of kindergartners attending public and private schools and early childhood programs in the fall of 1998. Follow-up waves 2, 3, and 4 were conducted in the spring of 1999, the fall of 1999, and the spring of 2000, respectively. Wave 5 was conducted in spring 2002, and wave 6 was conducted in spring 2004, when most of the children were in fifth grade.

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