Sarah Cattan, IFS, London

Workforce quality in early years interventions: Evidence from a large-scale home visiting program


While there is vast evidence that early years intervention can improve children’s outcomes in a long-lasting fashion, little is known about the role of workforce quality in driving their impacts. This paper provides one of the first contributions to this emerging literature by studying the role of workforce quality in explaining children's cognitive and socio-emotional outcomes in the context of a large-scale early intervention in England. In particular, for our identification strategy we exploit the unique features of the Family Nurse Partnership, a home-visiting program designed for first-time young mothers, beginning in pregnancy and lasting until the child's second birth. We adapt the research methods developed in the teacher effectiveness literature and apply them for the first time in the context of an early intervention. We show that there is substantial heterogeneity in the impact of family nurses on children's development and that the factors that most predict family nurse effectiveness are her age, her level of FNP-specific experience, and whether she trained as a midwife. These results are reminiscent of the literature on teacher quality, where observable characteristics have little power in explaining variation in teacher's value-added. Our results show that the quality of the workforce matters, and that we are just starting to understand its determinants.

Sarah Cattan received her PhD in Economics at the University of Chicago and is currently working as an Associate Director in the Education and Skills sector of the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Cattan’s research interests include inequality and the role of human capital played in driving inequalities within and across generations. She is also currently holding a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship to study child development and household behavior in developed and developing countries.