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Data Training Resources from the NSECE

Questions about the data files or documentation? Email the NSECE team at

OPRE is sponsoring an NSECE Users' Group to provide a forum for researchers to learn from one another and to help the NSECE team develop the most useful technical assistance materials. You can join the mailing list for the group.

About the NSECE

The National Survey of Early Care and Education provides a comprehensive picture of the use and availability of early care and education (ECE) across the United States. The study is funded by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and consists of a set of four integrated, nationally representative surveys conducted in 2012. There were surveys of:

  1. Households with children under 13,
  2. Home-based providers of ECE,
  3. Center-based providers of ECE, and
  4. The center-based provider workforce.

Together they characterize the supply of and demand for early care and education in America and permit better understanding of how well families' needs and preferences coordinate with providers' offerings and constraints.

For more information on the design of the NSECE, please see the summary data collection and sampling methodology report.

For a more detailed picture of the NSECE sample design, please see the NSECE sampling report.

Study design, sampling, and public release

slides (pdf)

Key definitions and sample characteristics of the four main data

slides (pdf)

NSECE 2019

Looking Forward to the 2019 NSECE

This pre-recorded webinar outlines the proposed plans for the 2019 NSECE, now including the household and unlisted home-based provider samples, as well as the previously planned listed home-based provider, center-based provider, and center-based workforce samples. It includes an overview of the proposed timeline, research goals, data collection plans, and planned analytic data products.


Looking Forward to the Proposed 2019 National Survey of Early Care and Education Overview: A State Perspective

This webinar was recorded on May 24, 2018 and provides an overview of opportunities for additional state participation in the 2019 NSECE, including: supplementing the national data collection sample for their state, provider sample frame supplementation, and state administrative subsidy data linkages. For more information, including a handout that provides more detail, please email



Sampling approach and study design

  • This self-study tutorial covers the overall study design and sampling approach of the NSECE (PDF/PPT), including sample sources and the four NSECE surveys at the foundation of the NSECE data collection design. Highlighted topics include sample sizes, the use of provider clusters, geographic characteristics available, and the importance of weighting due to the study design.
  • There is also an overview of the complex sample design and data collection utilized by the NSECE (PDF research brief)
  • ICPSR’s Virtual workshop: Linking Administrative and Survey Data. This series will be using the 2012 National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE) as its example survey for several of its discussions and exercises. If you are not familiar with the NSECE, you may want to explore some of the content available here. A great and quick introduction to the study are the downloadable slides on this page. Particularly helpful are the 'Sampling Approach and Study Design' slides and the 'Surveys' slides. This series includes six interactive videoconferencing sessions.

Data files and documentation

  • The data files and documentation are described in detail in this self-study tutorial (PDF/PPT). The slides will describe the type of variables available in each of the five categories of data files the NSECE will offer: Quick Tabulation, Public Use, Level 1 Restricted-Use Questionnaire, Level 2 Restricted-Use Geographic, and Level 3 Restricted-Use Identifying. In addition, types of documentation and the information they contain are described here.

Statistical analysis

  • Statistics derived from the NSECE study without proper weighting adjustment will result in biased estimates. The Design-corrected Variance Estimation of NSECE Statistics Brief offers programming examples on how to calculate two common statistics—totals and percentages—accounting for survey design variables.
  • The PSU and Cluster Weights User Guide describes key elements of the NSECE sampling methodology, including Primary Sampling Units for the household and listed center- based and home-based providers, Secondary Sampling Units for the household sample, and the Provider Cluster.
  • Constructing Center-Based Cluster-Level Metrics to Use in Household Level Analysis: A Tutorial for NSECE Data is aimed at researchers interested in using NSECE to carry out analysis of local-level interaction of supply and demand of early care and education. The tutorial is composed of a self-study guide and six CSV data files that illustrate the process of creating cluster-level aggregates using Center-based providers and how these metrics are integrated into the NSECE Household dataset for analysis.
  • The NSECE Calendar Data Tutorial (zip) provides a step by step description on how to restructure the NSECE data files to facilitate the creation of variables, how to interpret variables from the Household Survey file that contain key information related to the Calendar file, and how to create a variable at the child level that may be adapted to fit the user’s specific needs. The tutorial is composed of a self-study guide and five CSV data files.


  • The following self-study tutorials (PDF/PPT) focus on each survey used in the NSECE: the Center-Based Provider Survey, Workforce Survey, Home-based Provider Survey, and Household Survey. Several aspects of each survey are covered, including data collection, survey respondents, topics covered by the survey, levels of observation, and differences across the categories of files for the survey.

Various concepts captured in the NSECE

  • What Can We Learn From Child Care Licensing Lists And Other State Administrative Data?: This 60-minute webinar features NSECE project director Rupa Datta discussing what can be learned from child care licensing lists and other lists of child care providers, such as state pre-K rolls, quality ratings system databases or Head Start directories in a location.
  • Schedules of Work and Child Care in the NSECE: This video discusses the types of information available about parental work schedules in the NSECE, and outlines ways parental work data can be linked to children's non-parental care usage.
  • Defining Type of Care in the NSECE: This 1.5 hour webinar features Rupa Datta discussing type of care definitions as related to those used in the National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE) data files, particularly the Household Survey, the Center-Based Provider Survey, and the Home-Based Provider Survey.
  • Using Household and Provider Data to Measure Enrollment, Usage in the NSECE: This 15 minute video features NSECE Project Director, A. Rupa Datta, discussing the use of household and provider data to measure enrollment and usage in the NSECE.
  • Type of Care in the NSECE: This 22 minute video features NSECE Project Director, A. Rupa Datta, and NSECE Senior Survey Director, Jill Connelly, discussing the various types of care arrangements explored in the NSECE.
  • Age of Child in the NSECE: This 8 minute video features NSECE Senior Research Scientist Carolina Milesi discussing how age of child is captured in the NSECE.
  • Prices and Cost in the NSECE: This 13 minute video features NSECE Project Director, A. Rupa Datta, discussing the different concepts of price of child care and cost of child care in the NSECE.
  • Populating the Calendar File (CAPI Demo): This 18 minute video features NSECE Project Director, A. Rupa Datta, discussing and demonstrating the collection and of calendar data and creation of the calendar file.
  • ECE Arrangements in the NSECE: This 1.5 hour webinar features A. Rupa Datta discussing the array of Early Care and Education arrangements that are available within the NSECE Household Survey.
  • Levels of Geography in the NSECE: This 57 minute webinar features NSECE Project Director, A. Rupa Datta discussing levels of geography in the NSECE.
  • Looking Forward to the Proposed 2019 National Survey of Early Care and Education Overview: A State Perspective: Planning is underway for a proposed 2019 National Survey of Early Care and Education! This webinar reviews uses of 2012 NSECE state data and describes ways for states to participate in the proposed 2019 NSECE, such as the provider sample frame supplement available for states.

Research Reports and Briefs

To date, OPRE has published a number of reports that present findings from the NSECE. View these reports and other resources associated with the NSECE study.


The most user-friendly version of the NSECE questionnaires can be found in Chapter 5 of the User's Guides developed for the public-use and restricted-use data files. This chapter provides variable-level documentation within the structure of the questionnaire so that data users can clearly see the relationships across the variables and the instrument used to collect these data. In addition to the questions asked during the survey, this chapter also includes explanations of skip patterns, differences by mode of data collection, and interviewer instructions. To access these guides, click on the link for the Codebook associated with the public-use and restricted-use data files.