Andrew Barr, Texas A&M University

The Heterogeneous Long Run Effects of Universal Pre-K


Using universe United States tax data and a difference-in-differences approach that leverages the introduction of universal preschool in Georgia and Oklahoma, we show that universal preschool generated no average increases in earnings for individuals for whom the program was available in early childhood. These average null results obscure significant heterogeneity in the effects of preschool access. Children from low-income backgrounds appear to be no better off overall, and potentially harmed in Georgia, whereas those from families just outside of Head Start (a pre-existing comprehensive education, health, and nutrition program for low-income children in the United States) eligibility earn more as a result of universal preschool availability. A simple theory of treatment contrasts explains much of the heterogeneity in effects across natural subgroups and those constructed intentionally to maximize heterogeneity. Data driven approaches to identify treatment heterogeneity validate the importance of treatment contrast in explaining the observed effects, while also suggesting alternative forms of treatment heterogeneity that were not ex ante apparent. Estimated effects on intermediate outcomes, including educational attainment, incarceration, and receipt of government assistance, align with the pattern of effects on earnings.

Andrew Barr is associate professor at Texas A & M University. His research focuses on understanding the role of financial and informational factors in the college decisions and related labor market outcomes of non-traditional students.

His work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Education, the Spencer Foundation, and the American Educational Research Association. Barr holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Virginia and he is a research affiliate with CESifo.

You can read more about Andrew Barr here

CEBI contact: Miriam Wüst