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The Perry Preschoolers at Late Midlife: A Study in Design-Specific Inference

Author

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  • James J. Heckman

    () (The University of Chicago)

  • Ganesh Karapakula

    () (Center for the Economics of Human Development, University of Chicago)

Abstract

This paper presents the first analysis of the life course outcomes through late midlife (around age 55) for the participants of the iconic Perry Preschool Project, an experimental high-quality preschool program for disadvantaged African-American children in the 1960s. We discuss the design of the experiment, compromises in and adjustments to the randomization protocol, and the extent of knowledge about departures from the initial random assignment. We account for these factors in developing conservative small-sample hypothesis tests that use approximate worst-case (least favorable) randomization null distributions. We examine how our new methods compare with standard inferential methods, which ignore essential features of the experimental setup. Widely used procedures produce misleading inferences about treatment effects. Our design-specific inferential approach can be applied to analyze a variety of compromised social and economic experiments, including those using re-randomization designs. Despite the conservative nature of our statistical tests, we find long-term treatment effects on crime, employment, health, cognitive and non-cognitive skills, and other outcomes of the Perry participants. Treatment effects are especially strong for males. Improvements in childhood home environments and parental attachment appear to be an important source of the long-term benefits of the program. The appendix to this paper may be found here.

Suggested Citation

  • James J. Heckman & Ganesh Karapakula, 2019. "The Perry Preschoolers at Late Midlife: A Study in Design-Specific Inference," Working Papers 2019-034, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  • Handle: RePEc:hka:wpaper:2019-034
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    File URL: http://cehd.uchicago.edu/perry-design-specific-inference
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    File URL: http://humcap.uchicago.edu/RePEc/hka/wpaper/Heckman_Karapakula_2019_perry-late-midlife-design-specific-r2.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Kari Lock Morgan & Donald B. Rubin, 2015. "Rerandomization to Balance Tiers of Covariates," Journal of the American Statistical Association, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 110(512), pages 1412-1421, December.
    2. Cattaneo, Matias D., 2010. "Efficient semiparametric estimation of multi-valued treatment effects under ignorability," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 155(2), pages 138-154, April.
    3. James J. Heckman & Jeffrey Smith & Nancy Clements, 1997. "Making The Most Out Of Programme Evaluations and Social Experiments: Accounting For Heterogeneity in Programme Impacts," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 64(4), pages 487-535.
    4. Rodrigo Pinto & Azeem Shaikh & Adam Yavitz & James Heckman, 2010. "Inference with Imperfect Randomization: The Case of the Perry Preschool Program," 2010 Meeting Papers 1336, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    5. Rabe-Hesketh, Sophia & Skrondal, Anders & Pickles, Andrew, 2005. "Maximum likelihood estimation of limited and discrete dependent variable models with nested random effects," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 128(2), pages 301-323, October.
    6. James J. Heckman & Ganesh Karapakula, 2019. "Intergenerational and Intragenerational Externalities of the Perry Preschool Project," NBER Working Papers 25889, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Anders Skrondal & Sophia Rabe‚ÄźHesketh, 2009. "Prediction in multilevel generalized linear models," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 172(3), pages 659-687, June.
    8. James Heckman & Rodrigo Pinto & Peter Savelyev, 2013. "Understanding the Mechanisms through Which an Influential Early Childhood Program Boosted Adult Outcomes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(6), pages 2052-2086, October.
    9. Abadie, Alberto & Athey, Susan & Imbens, Guido W. & Wooldridge, Jeffrey M., 2017. "Sampling-Based vs. Design-Based Uncertainty in Regression Analysis," Research Papers 3349, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    10. Chung, EunYi & Romano, Joseph P., 2016. "Multivariate and multiple permutation tests," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 193(1), pages 76-91.
    11. Miriam Bruhn & David McKenzie, 2009. "In Pursuit of Balance: Randomization in Practice in Development Field Experiments," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(4), pages 200-232, October.
    12. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James J. & Lochner, Lance, 2006. "Interpreting the Evidence on Life Cycle Skill Formation," Handbook of the Economics of Education, in: Erik Hanushek & F. Welch (ed.), Handbook of the Economics of Education, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 12, pages 697-812, Elsevier.
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    Cited by:

    1. Heckman, James J. & Karapakula, Ganesh, 2019. "Intergenerational and Intragenerational Externalities of the Perry Preschool Project," IZA Discussion Papers 12363, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Bertoni, Marco & Brunello, Giorgio & De Benedetto, Marco Alberto & De Paola, Maria, 2019. "External Monitors and Score Manipulation in Italian Schools: Symptomatic Treatment or Cure?," IZA Discussion Papers 12591, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    randomized controlled trial; early childhood intervention; life cycle treatment effects; randomization tests; re-randomization; worst-case inference; least favorable null distributions; partial identification; small-sample hypothesis testing;

    JEL classification:

    • C40 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - General
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • C10 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - General

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