Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: The Effects of Pre-K Access and Quality on Social Mobility

Friday, November 13, 2015 : 1:50 PM
Miami Lecture Hall (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Timothy Bartik, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and Brad Hershbein, W.E. Upjohn Institute
Within the past decade, state-funded pre-Kindergarten has roughly doubled in its coverage of 4-year-olds, and expansion of such programs continues to make for policy debates. Although research has shown these programs can be effective at increasing test scores and later life outcomes in certain cases, existing studies have generally focused on small or state-specific programs that may not sufficiently capture program heterogeneity and thus may not generalize to other areas or programs. In this paper, we draw upon multiple data sources to exploit variation in enrollment in state-provided pre-Kindergarten programs across time and place to examine the effect of these programs on standardized test scores and other academic outcomes. Our data cover the last two decades and span all 50 states, and we investigate both program-level heterogeneity as well as heterogeneous impacts on different types of students and schools, accounting for the possibility of peer effects and spillovers. To our knowledge, this set of analyses is the first to provide national-level estimates of state-funded pre-Kindergarten access on academic outcomes. Finally, using back-of-the-envelope calculations, we discuss the implication of our estimates for earnings later in life and social mobility.