The embryonic cerebral cortex contains a population of stem-like founder cells capable of generating large, mixed clones of neurons and glia in vitro. We report that the default state of early cortical stem cells is neuronal, and that stem cells are heterogeneous in the number of neurons that they generate. In low fibroblast growth factor (FGF2) concentrations, most maintain this specification, generating solely neuronal progeny. Oligodendroglial production within these clones is stimulated by a higher, threshold level of FGF2, and astrocyte production requires additional environmental factors. Because most cortical neurons are born before glia in vivo, these data support a model in which the scheduled production of cortical cells involves an intrinsic neuronal program in the early stem cells and exposure to environmental, glia-inducing signals.