Elizabeth Cascio

Elizabeth Cascio

Date: Thursday, October 13, 2016
Time: 5:30 PM
Place: 125 Linfield Hall

Title: Child's Play? The Economics of Preschool Education in America

Sponsoring department: Agricultural Economics and Economics


There is much interest today in public interventions to increase the participation of American children in high-quality preschool education. However, there is much less consensus about the details of the optimal preschool policy. Who should be eligible to attend publicly-funded preschools? What makes a preschool “high quality?" In this talk, Dr. Cascio will argue that dramatic changes in the economic landscape since the 1960s – from the rise in women’s labor force participation to an evolution in the very meaning of preschool – limit the modern-day prescriptive value of findings from famous preschool experiments of the past. More valuable is a reading of the broader body of empirical evidence on preschool impacts through the lens of a simple economic framework. Dr. Cascio will discuss how this analytical approach to preschool policy shows that the benefits of public preschool vary in size and form depending on family income, and that defining preschool quality might not be as easy as it first appears.

About the speaker:

Elizabeth Cascio is an applied economist specializing in the study of education, with specific interests in how policy and other external forces shape educational opportunity and how that opportunity transforms lives.  Her past work has documented the educational and socioeconomic ramifications of some of the most important policy and demographic shifts of the 20th century – the passage of landmark civil rights and federal education legislation in the 1960s, the downward extension of many state school systems to include kindergartens in the 1960s and 1970s, and the large influx of immigrants into public schools since the 1970s. Her current research projects lie more in the present day, including studies on the impacts of universal preschool, how and why the test score advantages from early intervention “fade out” across the lifecycle, and the educational response to recent economic shocks. Her research has received financial support from the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research and has been published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Journal of Human Resources, American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, and the Journal of Urban Economics, among other outlets.

In addition to her faculty appointment at Dartmouth College, Cascio is a Research Associate in the Programs on Education, Development of the American Economy, and Children at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and a Research Associate at the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).  She also currently serves as a co-editor at the Journal of Human Resources.  She received her B.A. summa cum laude from Franklin and Marshall College in 1997 and her Ph.D. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley in 2003.  She joined the Dartmouth faculty in 2006.