PreK=-3rd Data Resource Center: The First Six Years of Schooling and Beyond

The Chicago Longitudinal Study (CLS), 1986-1989: A Study of Children in Chicago Public Schools


This user guide provides a brief description of the Chicago Longitudinal Survey (CLS), including data collection methods, available variables, and sample information. To locate additional information on this study, go to:

Introduction to the Chicago Longitudinal Study

The CLS is a survey-based study investigating the effects of the Child-Parent Center (CPC), an early intervention program, on children. Specifically this study focuses on the academic and social development of children living in disadvantaged areas of central-city Chicago. It follows a cohort of children from kindergarten through high school and beyond in order to examine the long-term effects of their exposure to the CPC. Information on parent and family characteristics as well as school practices are collected to assess their impact on children's developmental success.

The Child-Parent Center (CPC) is an early intervention program funded by Title 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The 24 Child-Parent Centers currently operating are located adjacent to or within public elementary schools and share resources and staff while serving the school's population. Since 1977 a CPC extension program, funded by the State of Illinois, has provided services to students in 1st - 3rd grades. In addition to providing programs for children, the Child-Parent Centers also implement parent resource programs and conduct home visits and outreach activities in the local neighborhood.

The CLS is a longitudinal survey that collects annual data on an original cohort of 1,539 kindergarten children. Data collection takes place through multiple instruments including child surveys and assessments, parent surveys and interviews, teacher surveys, school administrative records, standardized tests, and classroom observations. This multi-method approach allows CLS users to investigate the effects of a variety of individual, family and school factors on children's development.


Chicago Longitudinal Study sample members were selected based on their enrollment in the Child-Parent Center program. The sample was composed of 1,150 kindergarten students enrolled in the CPC program during the 1985-86 school year. This group of program participants was supplemented with a comparison group of 389 children from the same age cohort who participated in five all-day kindergarten programs which were not participants in the CPC program.

All study children were born in 1980 and were enrolled in all-day kindergarten in high-poverty neighborhoods in the city of Chicago. CPC programs are located in 25 elementary schools in 17 different community neighborhoods. Each of the schools qualifies for Title 1 funding due to high poverty rates in their neighborhoods. Sample children attended schools in which 67% of students in the attendance area were from low-income families, more than 90% of the sample children were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. Most study participants were members of minority groups, including the 93% who were African American. The following table provides additional sample characteristics.

Table 1. Selected Sample Characteristics

Original (kindergarten) sample
Sample size 1,539
% attending CPC preschool 64.3
% African-American 92.9
% female 50.2
% from low income neighborhoods (> 60% low income) 76.0
% from families with high school degree or more 57.7

Data Elements

Data Collection Methods and Data Elements

The Chicago Longitudinal Study is designed to achieve four main objectives:

  1. To document patterns of school performance and social competence throughout the school-age years, including school achievement and attitudes, academic progress, and psychosocial development.

  2. To evaluate the effects on child and youth development of the Child-Parent Center Program and the grades 1-3 program extension.

  3. To investigate the contributions of personal, family, school and community factors on children's educational and social development.

  4. To identify and better understand the educational and psychosocial pathways through which early childhood experiences influence are manifested scholastic and behavioral development.

Three of the primary data collection instruments are questionnaires completed by the student, parent, and teacher. Each year the primary parent and the student's classroom teacher complete paper questionnaires. These questionnaires are repeated during each year of data collection.

Parent questionnaires gather information on children's educational experiences, school progress, parenting practices and involvement in the child's education. The parent questionnaires also collect demographic and social characteristics of the household. Teacher surveys assess the child's compliance with classroom policies, cooperation, adjustment to the academic and social environment, and parental involvement in the child's educational experience.

Beginning in third grade, students complete paper questionnaires that gather information on self-perception and attitudes; including school enjoyment and family/friend relationships. In 2002, students were surveyed as young adults (age 22-23) about their recollections of the CPC program, their educational and employment accomplishments, and their future plans.

The Restricted-Use Data File

The restricted-use data file includes the complete array of variables collected by the CLS, 1986 - 1989, with the exception of variables which identify participants, neighborhoods or schools. Variables include demographic characteristics of the student and parents, assessments of the student school performance, and measures of parental expectations and educational outcomes. Table 2 summarizes available data elements and the primary collection instrument for these data.

Table 2: Summary of Restricted-Use File Data Elements

Category Data Elements Primary Data Source
Student Demographics Ethnicity; gender; highest grade completed by 2001 School records
Family Demographics Mother's education; father's education; age of mother at child's birth; parental marital status when child was age 8 Family interviews
Program Participation Years of CPC participation; special education status; years in special education placement; child welfare case histories School records
Delinquency Record Number of delinquency petitions County court records
Academic Assessments Iowa Basic Skills Test; ITBS Math Comprehension scores; Reading Skills scores; kindergarten word analysis score Student assessments
Parental Expectations Parental involvement; parental expectation of child's education Parent survey
Socio-emotional Development Average self-perceived competence; teacher assessment of socio-emotional adjustment; socio-emotional maturity at collection years 1-6 Student self-report; Teacher survey
Student self-perception Self-opinion, evaluation of relationship with family and friends; parental involvement; extracurricular activities/TV use; educational expectations; perception of parental expectations Student questionnaire
Student school experiences Enjoyment of school and educational activities; evaluation of own academic performance; satisfaction with school and class experiences; peer comparisons; participation in deviant behavior Student questionnaire
Student self report and assessment in adulthood Past schooling satisfaction; educational attainment/post-secondary schooling; current and past occupational characteristics; program participation (TANF/food stamps/housing assistance); life satisfaction, health, general well-being; demographic/household characteristics Adult followup survey (2002)
Child activities Friendships; reading/library use; participation in school activities; television us Parent survey
Child's educational experiences Attendance; motivation; perceptions of child's future educational success; school progress; schools attended Parent survey
Family characteristics Parent's education; economic well-being measures; child's siblings; parental age; marital status; housing tenure; employment status; perception of neighborhood Parent survey
Parenting practices Time spent with child in various activities; degree of parental support; parental school involvement (meeting attendance, etc.) Parent survey
Classroom behavior Quality of student's social interaction; ability to focus on and complete class work; level of cooperation with acceptance of class rules; degree of peer influence Teacher survey
Parental attributes Parent interest in child's education; parenting practices supportive of learning Teacher survey
Academic assessment Child's reading ability compared to grade level; reading and math grades; Teacher survey

Learn More

Accessing the Chicago Longitudinal Study Dataset

You can access the study at, where you will find the full study description and the public-use versions of the codebook and user guide. To access the restricted-use data and codebook, please complete the application and user agreement that is also found on this study description page.

Further information on the CLS can be found at: At this website you will find an introduction to the study, survey questionnaires for the student, parent and teacher components which can be downloaded as .pdf files and a list of citations for previous research using CLS data.