July 2019

Translating Research into Real-World Practice in Early Childhood

The TMW Center is honored to be organizing and hosting the inaugural year of the Kenneth C. Griffin Applied Economics Incubator, during the 2019-2020 academic year. In partnership with UChicago’s Department of Economics, year one of the Incubator will focus on early childhood research and the science of scaling evidence-based interventions within the field. TMW Center co-director John List shares some early details in the following Q&A:

What was the genesis of the Incubator and what will it entail?

The idea behind the Applied Economics Incubator is to elevate the status of the University of Chicago as a hub for generating key initiatives that drive broad-based thought and policy changes.

What do you hope to accomplish with this project?

During year one, if we can link research from different disciplines and connect thought leaders from economics, psychology, sociology, medicine and public policy to stimulate new ideas that develop innovative approaches in early childhood and the science of scaling, then we will have met our goal.

Why make the focus of the inaugural Incubator early childhood? 

Much of the research being done in economics right now centers on these early inputs and how they affect a child’s outcomes later in life. I have several colleagues here in the Department of Economics, and departments throughout UChicago who have been focusing their research agenda on how to improve educational outcomes for children, particularly from low socio-economic situations. I was confident that by choosing early childhood, I would have their support and willingness to collaborate during this first year.

What fields can we expect to see represented in the Incubator and how did you arrive at the decision to nominate the TMW Center to spearhead its debut?

The TMW Center was a natural choice because of the overlap it has to evidence-based economics. The TMW Center is impressive because we use evidence-based interventions and tools to collect data in order to continuously improve interventions.  We are committed to bringing these interventions to larger communities and have worked hard on researching the science of scaling—a very interesting and confounding issue in the world of economics right now.

What does the Incubator mean for the TMW Center?

The aim is to make the University of Chicago a hub for early childhood learning, with the TMW Center at the core. The hope is that the TMW Center becomes synonymous with early childhood research and development.

Can you share a tease about who or what we can look forward to seeing as a part of this?

We are working on a large publication that will target academics as well as those in the world of public policy. This book will look at the science of scaling, as seen through the lens of early childhood. There will be conferences, visitors, and a special issue of the Journal of Political Economy that will focus on the economics of early childhood. We plan to have academic visitors from across the U.S., as well as a few from Europe, who will immerse themselves for a short period of time here on campus, in order allow for the sharing of ideas through research collaborations, lectures, and mentorship.