Special Feature

UChicago Economic Insights in Education

As students of all ages head back to school this fall, policymakers face unprecedented challenges as the COVID pandemic continues create disruption. University of Chicago economists have produced a wide range of research on early childhood development, K-12 education, and higher education that provide useful insights and findings. A sample of topics is below, in addition to our full library of working papers in education.

Early Childhood Education

Working Paper — The Education Gradient in Maternal Enjoyment of Time in Childcare

Research by Harris Public Policy’s Ariel Kalil reveals the time mothers spend with children is driven, in part, by the mother’s education level. However, college-educated mothers experience no more positive feelings and no fewer negative feelings from childcare than other mothers (despite spending more time on this activity). Economic theories of time allocation suggest that the education-based differences may be driven by an investment motive. Read More

Working Paper — The Social Side of Early Human Capital Formation: Using a Field Experiment to Estimate the Causal Impact of Neighborhoods

John List of UChicago’s Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics explores the importance of public programs and neighborhoods on human capital formation at an early age, highlighting that human capital accumulation is fundamentally a social activity. Read More

View all Early Childhood Education Research


K-12 Education

Working Paper — What We Teach About Race and Gender: Representation in Images and Text of Children’s Books

Children learn many things from the books they read, and some of the most important lessons books teach are the sociocultural norms of society and whose space it is. Harris Public Policy’s Anjali Adukia, et al. showcase how computer-driven tools can help measure the messages children encounter in books, allowing us to understand many things about who is and is not represented in these books. Read more

Working Paper — Not Too Late: Improving Academic Outcomes Among Adolescents

When it comes to improving academic skills of children who are behind in school once they reach adolescence, the wrong interventions may have been put in place. This research by UChicago Crime Lab and Education Lab’s Monica Bhatt; Harris Public Policy’s Jens Ludwig and Susan Mayer; and UChicago’s School of Social Service Administration’s Harold Pollack reveals that high-impact tutoring at relatively low cost can not only improve test scores but also lifetime earnings. Read more

View all K-12 Education Research


Higher Education

Working Paper: Cross-Cohort Analysis of Human Capital Specialization and the College Gender Wage Gap

More recent generations of college women are sorting into traditionally male-dominated majors. Collectively, this research by Chicago Booth’s Erik Hurst highlights the importance of understanding gender differences in pre-labor market human capital specialization and the mapping between college major and occupational sorting when studying the evolution of gender differences in labor market outcomes over time. Read more

Working Paper — The Distributional Effects of Student Loan Forgiveness

Research from Chicago Booth’s Constantine Yannelis finds more responsive and generous income-driven repayment plan, which links payments to income and forgives debt after a period of time, is the least expensive and most progressive policy option. Read more

Working Paper — Who Profits from Modern College Sports

Division I schools make billions off athletic programs, with close to two-thirds coming from men’s basketball and football alone. Chicago Booth’s Matt Notowidigdo has calculated that due to NCAA restrictions, only 7% of those revenues are paid to student athletes, with important distributional consequences. Read more

View all Higher Education Research