Parents and paediatric neurologists need information on the long-term social prognosis of children with cerebral palsy (CP). No large population-based study has been performed on this topic. On 31 December 1999, to find predictors in childhood of subsequent education and employment, 819 participants with CP born between 1965 and 1978 (471 males; mean age 28y 10mo, SD 4y, range 21 to 35y) in the Danish Cerebral Palsy Registry were compared with 4406 controls without CP born between 1965 and 1978 (2546 males; mean age 28y 10mo, SD 4y, range 21 to 35y). Diagnostic subtypes of the 819 participants with CP were: 31% hemiplegia, 43% diplegia, 18% tetraplegia, and 8% other types. Level of motor impairment with respect to walking ability was: 62% able to walk without assistance, 21% with assistance, and 16% not able to walk (for 1% of study children walking ability was not known). Relevant information was obtained from Denmark's unique registries. Of the participants with CP, 33% vs 77% of controls, had education beyond lower secondary school (i.e. after age 15-16y), 29% were competitively employed (vs 82% of controls), 5% were studying, and 5% had specially created jobs. Excluding participants with CP with an estimated developmental quotient (DQ) of less than 50 or inability to walk at age 5 to 6 years, the odds ratios (multivariate analysis) for not being competitively employed were 1.9 for diplegia versus hemiplegia, 22.5 for DQ 50 to 85 versus DQ greater than 85, and 3.7 for those with epilepsy versus those without epilepsy. The severity of motor impairment among participants with CP able to walk had just a minor influence. Only half the participants with CP who had attended mainstream schooling were employed. In conclusion several childhood characteristics seemed to predict long-term social prognosis.