Philadelphia Educational Longitudinal Study (PELS)

The Philadelphia Educational Longitudinal Study (PELS) is a comprehensive database following a cohort of 2000 students in the School District of Philadelphia from the close of their 8th grade year in 1996 to three years past on-time graduation, 2003.

Detailed telephone surveys of students and their parents were conducted with survey questions covering a wide range of topics—from attitude toward school, safety and security, sexual behavior, postsecondary expectations, access to information about colleges and careers, extracurricular activities, and civic engagement.

The data address both in- and out-of-school challenges, including student and parent perceptions of academic challenge and climate, engagement in risk-taking behavior and the transition to 9th grade. PELS helps to distinguish the effects of "compound disadvantage" and link student outcomes of educational programs to interventions. Critical to our national effort to promote in-school and post-secondary success in urban youth, PELS data have policy implications vital to laying the groundwork for adulthood and will help drive quality education funding and initiatives for years to come.

Frank Furstenberg, distinguished professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, originally led the study. Between 2005 and 2008, the Ed Fund furthered the work with the PELS dataset, with an emphasis on making the data available to the research community, conducting further analysis, and disseminating the results to education professionals and policymakers to ensure that this important work is made known and is widely applied.

In 2009, the Ed Fund transferred the data to Temple University's Social Science Data Library (SSDL). SSDL supports research and instruction in the social sciences by making its holdings freely available to faculty and students, creating special files tailored to the needs of specific courses or research projects, offering consultative assistance in the use of its holdings, acquiring and creating new datasets in which there is likely to be instructional and research interest, and introducing to users, new technologies which facilitate data analysis.

Supporting Data

Briefs using the PELS Dataset

High School Planning: What PELS Tells Us about Student Engagement
> Download report

Postsecondary Education: What PELS Tells Us about Pathways
> Download presentation


> Download PDFs


To learn more about the Philadelphia Educational Longitudinal Study, please contact:

David Elesh

Director of Social Science Data Library and Associate Professor
732 Gladfelter Hall

David Ford

Assistant Director of Social Science Data Library
863 Gladfelter Hall