Barrington prize 2011/12 awarded to Dr Orla Doyle (UCD School of Economics and UCD Geary Institute)

23 April 2012

The Council of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland under the auspices of the Barrington Trust (founded in 1836 at the bequest of John Barrington) has awarded UCD economist Dr Orla Doyle (UCD School of Economics and UCD Geary Institute) the 2011/2012 Barrington Prize in recognition of her research in the economic and social sciences.

Each year, the award winner delivers the Barrington Lecture which focuses on a topic with current relevance to economic or social policy in Ireland. In this year’s lecture Dr Doyle examined the increasing body of evidence that targeted, early interventions aimed at at-risk children and their families can reduce socioeconomic inequalities in children’s skills and capabilities.

Dr. Doyle’s research describes a randomised control trial (RCT) evaluation of a five-year preventative programme which aims to improve the school readiness skills of socioeconomically disadvantaged children. The Preparing for Life (PFL) programme, an initiative funded by Atlantic Philantrophies and the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and managed by the Northside Partnership is one of the first studies in Ireland to use random assignment to experimentally modify the environment of high risk families and track its impact over time. It is one of a series of early childhood interventions which have recently been initiated in Ireland with the ambition of changing the life outcomes for children who are at risk. Dr. Orla Doyle is leading the team from the Geary Institute who are conducting the evaluation.

This paper describes the design and motivation for the study, the randomisation procedure adopted and the baseline data collected. Using Monte Carlo permutation testing, it finds that the randomisation procedure was successful as there are no systematic differences between the treatment and control groups at baseline. This indicates that future analysis of treatment effects over the course of the five year evaluation can be causally attributed to the programme and used to determine the impact of Preparing for Life on children’s school readiness skills.

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