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The Philadelphia Human Development Project: Studying the Determinants of Early Childhood Development

Statement of Problem

Large gaps in cognitive and socio-emotional development, which are critical to positive child outcomes, exist across socioeconomic groups and emerge early in children’s lives. Although differences in income can partially explain these gaps, a substantial fraction are due to factors correlated with, but also distinct from income, such as levels of maternal education.

Maternal knowledge about the benefits of investing in early childhood may determine how much time and resources the mother devotes to raising her child in the first few years of his/her life. At PolicyLab, we recognize that the health and beliefs of caregivers can impact the health and development of the child. Unfortunately, there have been no studies that have systematically analyzed maternal beliefs, maternal investments and child development, making it difficult to parcel out how maternal beliefs influence investment choices made by the family. The Philadelphia Human Development Project (PHD) is a longitudinal study that seeks to fill this gap in knowledge – eventually through the provision of intergenerational family services – regarding the determinants of early childhood development.


Next Steps

This study is ongoing. The findings will help to determine whether education or other intergenerational family services might help mothers obtain information that is beneficial for the development of their children. We also hope the results inform programs that can help mothers take care of their children in a way that is beneficial for children’s early development.

This project page was last updated in July 2019.

Suggested Citation

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PolicyLab. The Philadelphia Human Development Project: Studying the Determinants of Early Childhood Development [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: plug in date accessed here]. 

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