Introducing the Perry Preschool Project: Causal Inference Bootcamp


[MUSIC] One of the earliest and most famous
social science experiments was the Perry Preschool Project. This project has been extremely influential
in both research and in public policy, and it’s often used as evidence for supporting
federally subsidized preschool programs and for mandating preschool attendance. So what
was this experiment? Well, it involved five cohorts of children
from the years 1962 to 1967. All of the kids were from one city, Ypsilanti, Michigan, and
they were focusing on a particular category of students: namely, low-income, high-risk
black students. So, they had 123 students total in the experiment.
65 of these kids were put in the control group. The remaining students, 58, were put in the
treatment group. And here, treatment involved each kid attending a preschool program five
mornings a week, and getting a 90 minute home visit from a social worker every week. The
control group kids they didn’t get any of that stuff, they just went on with life as
usual. So basically the treatment group was to provide preschool to some kids along with
this home visit. And what’s important about these studies,
since it was done such a long time ago, is that followup data has been collected on this
kids ever since. So we have lots of data on long term outcomes about these students educational
attainment, you know, whether they went to college or not for example, their wages, how
much they make, criminal activity, etc., etc. So there are many, many, many research papers
that look at and analyze this data. We’re going to look at one of these papers by Belfield,
Nores, Barnett, Schweinhart in 2006 in the Journal of Human Resources. Now this paper
is going to do two things: it’s going to show us a lot of raw data, which is what happened
to these students, and then it’s going try to value the benefits of treatment. Now for us, we’re just going to look at the
raw data to see what was the effect of this preschool program on different outcomes. So
that’s what we’re going to do. [MUSIC].

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