Human Capital Interventions Across Childhood and Adolescence

Principal Investigator: Greg Duncan

Project Investigators

Project Coordinator: Andrea Karsh, Research Analyst

Funding: National Institute of Health (NIH)

Project Website: Irvine Network on Interventions in Development

Study Purpose

The overall purpose of this research is to examine why human capital-oriented intervention programs and policies, directed at children in the preschool, middle childhood, and adolescent stages of development, have the effects, non-effects, and, in some cases, perverse effects that they do. The study focuses on the congruence (“fit”) between the developmental needs of children and youth and the design and nature of educational interventions designed to augment human capital and promote positive outcomes, particularly for individuals raised in economically disadvantaged families.

Study Design

This project, which involves analyses of 18 public use and restricted use existing data sets, is organized as four subprojects and has two overarching key objectives: (1) Secure an interdisciplinary understanding of how children in different developmental stages, and in different personal and environmental circumstances, are affected by human capital policy interventions, and (2) Promote successful child and youth interventions by getting inside the intervention black boxes to identify key program elements for preschoolers and school-aged children and youth in anticipation of future program design and evaluation.

Study I: Impacts of Early Childhood Interventions focuses on early childhood programs such as Head Start and Early Head Start. It employs both stage/policy- and child/policy-fit perspectives and largely experimental data to derive and test hypotheses about which combinations of child, family, and child care program characteristics lead to larger child care treatment effects on cognitive and behavioral outcomes for young children.

Study II: State School Health Curricula employs a developmental perspective to understand the conditions under which state health education curriculum requirements regarding alcohol, tobacco and other drugs have protective or harmful effects on youth substance use.

Study III: Distributional Impacts of School Policies develops and applies new methods for examining the distributional impacts of a variety of preschool and school-based policies.

Study IV: Middle Life Skills and Later Life Outcomes addresses the “So what?” question of the possible longer-run consequences of augmenting skills and improving behavior at various points in childhood and adolescence. Specifically, it assesses the extent to which achievement, behavior, and attention skills in middle childhood and adolescence are predictive of adult labor market and health outcomes, and of avoiding serious adult crime. This study complements the other three in the project by examining skills and childhood stages targeted by the various education-related interventions they evaluate to determine which matter most for adult well-being.

Project Duration: 5 Years