State-Level Investments in Early Childhood Education: Evidence of Short and Long-term Impacts 

May 8, 2019 

In a variety of contexts, early childhood interventions are shown to develop human capital. As such, recent proposals at the federal and state levels aim to expand public early childhood education (ECE) programs. Due to rapid neurological development during the earliest years of life, prior to school entry, investments during this period have been shown to be among the most productive social policy investments with substantial returns for both individuals and society. While in most states kindergarten began as a voluntary program, starting in the 1970s some states evolved to mandating kindergarten attendance. Several changes in state mandatory school entrance laws across states over time provide an opportunity to causally identify the influence of an additional year of ECE on important individual education and labor market outcomes, comparing states with mandatory attendance to those with voluntary attendance. We examine the impacts of mandatory kindergarten attendance on long-run outcomes as a first look at how an additional year of education during early childhood will influence long-run outcomes, in a policy context where federal and state governments are actively considering universal preschool programs. Mandatory kindergarten presents an opportunity not only to the child who is exposed to a year of early schooling, but also to the parents, particularly mothers, who may choose to change their labor supply in response to the policy.


The Long-Run Effects of the Earned Income Tax Credit on Women's Earnings

February 6, 2019

The earned income tax credit (EITC) stands out as perhaps the most effective pro-work, anti-poverty policy the United States has devised. Governments now considering an expansion of the credit do so based on extensive research that focuses only on its short-term benefits. But a more generous EITC also boosts women’s earnings in the long run. Most research has looked at how effective the EITC is in getting people into the work force and the subsequent initial employment benefits, with only one prior study examining the resulting growth in earnings over five years. This study takes a much longer-run perspective, and strengthens the case even more, by showing that the EITC not only provides more resources to low-income families, but, because of the pro-work incentives, boosts how much they earn on their own in the long run.


Harnessing the Power: Academic and Government Collaborations to Use Administrative Data for Research and Policy Insights

May 23, 2018

Government agencies collect administrative data for a variety of programs. Partnering with academic researchers to analyze these data can lead to valuable human capital development and policy insights. As an academic economist, I have collaborated with coauthors at the United States Treasury and Internal Revenue Service to study federal income tax administration and tax policy. Following are four examples in which I learned valuable institutional background, provided data analysis skills, and developed academic research and policy-relevant conclusions. Rather than focusing on producing a single paper or study, successful partnerships between academic researchers and government agencies may focus instead on respecting each party's interests and developing sustainable protocols for longer-term partnerships.


Getting the Most Out of Investments in Preschool Education

March 7, 2018

At the start of kindergarten, there are large differences in the literacy and numeracy skills of children from low- and middle-income families, as well as in their ability to pay attention and engage in instruction. These gaps persist across their years of formal schooling, particularly in the case of academic skills. A promising approach to promoting educational opportunities for disadvantaged children is to offer intervention programs in the years prior to school entry. But the main tools available to federal, state, and local policymakers are very crude: funding slots in preschool programs; creating licensing, monitoring, and quality improvement systems; and prescribing curricula. Moreover, all three are costly to implement, and they compete with one another for scarce public dollars. It is vital, then, to consider what the goals of preschool education policies should be. In the short run, most agree the primary goal should be to promote the academic and socioemotional school readiness of low-income children. In the longer-run, most would also embrace the goal of promoting social mobility for disadvantaged children.


The Unequal Consequences of Mass Incarceration for Children

May 18, 2017

The rapid growth of mass incarceration in the United States means that a historically unprecedented number of children grow up with incarcerated parents, especially incarcerated fathers. Scholars have documented that, by and large, paternal incarceration has harmful consequences for children across the course or their lives and, given its concentration among the disadvantaged, may increase inequality among children. The research most often considers the average effects, paying particular attention to disentangling the effects of incarceration from the effects of other factors associated with incarceration such as poverty, neighborhood disadvantage, and criminal behaviors. However, the same factors that shape children’s risk of experiencing paternal incarceration — the demographic, socioeconomic, and behavioral characteristics of their parents — may also shape children’s responses to paternal incarceration. On the one hand, harmful consequences might be strongest for children with relatively low risks of experiencing paternal incarceration. On the other hand, consequences may be strongest for children with relatively high risks of experiencing paternal incarceration.


The Effect of Marijuana Decriminalization Laws and Labor Market Outcomes

November 28, 2016

Between 1976 and 2016, U.S. incarceration swelled by nearly 500%. While similar numbers of white and black men were incarcerated during this period, black men were incarcerated at about five times the rate as white men when adjusting for population. As much as 6% of the U.S. black male population was behind bars at any given point from the late 1990s through the mid 2000s. Arrests for marijuana possession are an important contributor to the growing incarceration rate: Black males are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana related offense than whites (ACLU, 2014). Over this time period, twenty one states passed marijuana decriminalization laws. The key feature of these laws is that they decrease the penalty for marijuana possession from an arrestable offense to, at most, a civil violation, similar to a traffic ticket. Exogenous variation in these laws is used in this study to estimate how changes in the probability of being arrested for marijuana possession affects labor market outcomes for black and white males.


The Effect of State Mandated Sex Education on Teenage Sexual Behaviors and Health

November 28, 2016

Sex education is an informational policy tool intended to reduce the future costs of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. As the level of concern over teenage pregnancy and STDs as economic and public health issues increased over time, states implemented and encouraged the teaching of sex education. The debate over school based sex education in the United States is centered on two major questions. Firstly, do schools have a responsibility to teach students about issues related to sex? Secondly, if schools teach sex education, what type of information should be presented? Using data from multiple sources, including the Youth Risk Behavioral Surveys, National Vital Statistics, and the CDC’s Wonder statistics on STDs, this study presents the first examination of the effect of state level sex education mandates on teenage sexual behaviors, STDs, and birth rates.


Initial Findings of the Seattle Minimum Wage Study

November 17, 2016

The City of Seattle minimum wage ordinance went into effect in April 2015, with a minimum wage of $10 or $11 depending on the size of the employer and whether the employer provides health insurance. The mandate covers nearly all workers in the City of Seattle, regardless of where the employer is headquartered. The wage rate is scheduled to increase incrementally every January through 2021 and is tied to inflation thereafter.


Inventory of Research on Economic Self-Sufficiency

October 27, 2016

This research brief describes a critical first step in the development of ESSPRI’s research agenda. It summarizes a lengthier document (found at that inventories what is known about policies to encourage economic self-sufficiency. This inventory helps delineate what we currently know about how existing policies affect economic self-sufficiency, and, perhaps more importantly, highlights the pressing questions we need to answer. The inventory tries to identify what we do and do not know about the longer-term effects of policies intended to encourage economic self-sufficiency, where existing research seems to reach a consensus, where it is in disagreement, and where there is little research on these longer-term effects. The inventory does not cover every possible policy that could increase work or earnings. Rather, the emphasis is on policies targeting populations for which achieving economic self-sufficiency is a challenge, and on evaluations that have a longer-run perspective and try to provide evidence on economic self-sufficiency in adulthood. To better serve the goal of providing one-stop shop for information on policies designed to increase economic self-sufficiency, the research inventory is a live document that will be updated as new research emerges. Feedback in the form of suggested research to add to the inventory or comments on the interpretation of the existing research can be sent to


Evaluation of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County and the Inland Empire

October 27, 2016

Big Brothers and Big Sisters (BBBS) of Orange County and the Inland Empire was founded with the goal of improving outcomes of children by providing professionally trained adult mentors. Such a program entails substantial costs, including identifying, training, and matching qualified mentors, the time of the mentors, and general operational costs. There is, at this point, limited evidence regarding the effectiveness of the BBBS program. It is of interest to practitioners and funders of the program, and others like it, to study the relationship between BBBS participation and measures of youth success in order to determine whether the program is achieving its goals.









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