Administrative Data Sources to Address Early Care and Education Policy: Relevant Research Questions

Research BriefEarly ChildhoodDec 2 2019

Administrative data can be an important source of information to help researchers address policy-relevant questions related to early care and education (ECE). Administrative data refers to information about individual children, families, and/or service providers that is collected and maintained as a part of program operations. Research using ECE-related administrative data has often focused on child care subsidy policies, use of ECE programs, access to ECE programs, and other topics.

Although researchers may be able to answer a range of questions using a single administrative data source, they can often answer other policy-relevant questions by linking multiple administrative data sources. Using administrative data, researchers can link children, families, programs, and communities across different data sources—and they can do so in a way that protects privacy and confidentiality.1 At the child and family level, researchers can explore the services that low-income families receive across a variety of different agencies and programs (e.g., nutrition assistance, health insurance coverage, and child care subsidies). At the community level, researchers can explore the types of services available within a given city or county. Linking information across data sources about services offered or families served may identify gaps or duplications in services. It may also identify potential areas for coordination by identifying, for example, programs that serve the same families. Additionally, linking ECE data with other data sources offers a chance for researchers and policymakers to answer questions about the experiences of children and families over time. For instance, researchers could address questions about whether participation in home visiting is associated with later reductions in the incidence of abuse and neglect. By linking data across various services, researchers can address a broader range of questions.


1. More information about protecting privacy and confidentiality can be found at under the Data Confidentiality/Security section.