Secondary data analysis of British population cohort studies: a practical guide for education researchers

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 15, 2021


Background: Britain is rich in longitudinal population cohort studies that posit valuable data resources for social science. However, education researchers currently underutilise these resources. Aims: The current paper (1) outlines the power and benefits of secondary data analyses for educational science and (2) provides a practical guide for education researchers on the characteristics, data, and accessibility of British population cohort studies. Methods: We identified eight British population cohort studies from the past 40 years that collected scholastic performance data during primary and secondary schooling, including (1) Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents And Children (ALSPAC), (2) Twins Early Development Study (TEDS), (3) Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education Project (EPPSE), (4) Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), (5) Born in Bradford (BiB), (6) Next Steps (LYSPE1), (7) Understanding Society (US) and (8) Our Future (LYSPE2). Participants across these studies were born between 1989 and 2010, and followed up at least once to 68 times, over periods of 7 to 29 years. For each study, we summarise the context and aims, review the assessed variables, and describe the process for accessing the data. Conclusions: We hope this article will encourage and support education researchers to widely utilise existing population cohort studies to further advance education science in Britain and elsewhere.

Published in

British Journal of Educational Psychology

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 91 , p.531 -546






Open Access

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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