Elizabeth Cascio will discuss the cost efficacy of universal over means-tested (targeted) programs, taking advantage of variation in state rules governing access to state-funded preschool in the U.S. Using age-eligibility rules for identification, she found that attending a state-funded universal preschool generates substantial immediate test score gains, particularly for poor children. Gains for poor children from attending targeted preschool are significantly smaller. Impacts of universal public kindergarten and universal pre-K look substantively similar within the same data, supporting an access interpretation. Benefit-cost ratios of universal programs are favorable despite their relatively high costs per poor child.
Elizabeth Cascio is an economist at Dartmouth specializing in the study of education and of social policy pertaining to young children, often in historical perspective. She has studied the educational and socioeconomic ramifications of major policy and demographic shifts in the 20th century United States. Her recent and ongoing research endeavors to understand how educational and social progress is enabled – and held back – by matters of policy design, economic conditions, and political voice.