Kirabo Jackson: Invest in Education Early and Often

Kirabo Jackson: Invest in Education Early and Often


Educational investments are most cost-effective when they start early and are sustained throughout childhood, Northwestern University’s Kirabo Jackson said during the Education Policy Institute’s (EPI) Annual Lecture in London’s City Hall.

Jackson’s lecture, titled ‘Education for Long-Run Success’, brought together some of his most insightful and influential research to date, on teachers and education funding by phase, to address: ‘How can we create good schools supplied by high-quality teachers?” 

Jackson’s research suggests that school spending can affect a child’s future. Simply spending more money “isn’t a panacea and doesn’t solve all the problems,” said Jackson, the Abram Harris Professor of Education and Social Policy at the School of Education and Social Policy. “But there are some smart ways we can spend it and starting early is the most effective.”

His talk also featured some of his previous and upcoming research on how teachers and schools contribute to pupils’ soft skills and future job opportunities. His work suggests the most efficacious teachers are the ones who can produce lasting gains in their students’ social and emotional skills. Yet the focus is often on improving test scores.

“Identifying policies that lead to long-run success requires us to look beyond standardized tests and exams to a broader set of social-emotional measures that might make good predictors of long-run success,” he said.

Jackson is currently looking at how schools and teachers influence social and emotional learning and how this, in turn, impacts future outcomes, including employment.

A labor economist who studies education and social policy issues, Jackson also has analyzed the effects of college-prep programs on students’ college and labor market outcomes, how tracking impacts students’ academic achievement and the effects of single-sex education on students’ academic performance.

The bulk of Jackson’s work, however, has focused on better understanding teacher labor markets. His extensive work on teachers analyzes the role of peer learning in teacher effectiveness, how best to measure teacher quality, and more.

Jackson’s scholarly articles have appeared in leading economics journals such as the Quarterly Journal of Economics, American Economic Journal, Journal of Labor Economics, The Review of Economics and Statistics, and The Journal of Human Resources.Kirabo Jackson

His work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Spencer Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Smith Richardson Foundation, and other organizations. Currently, Jackson is an editor of The Journal of Human Resources, serves on the American Economic Association's Committee on the status of minority groups in the economics profession, and is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

After growing up in the Caribbean and Africa, Jackson earned his bachelor’s degree in ethics, politics, and economics from Yale University in 1998 and his PhD in economics from Harvard University in 2007. He was assistant professor of labor economics at Cornell University between 2007 and 2010  before arriving at Northwestern.

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 10/2/22