Claudia Persico

Claudia Persico

2040 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208-4100
American University
School of Public Affairs, Department of Public Administration and Policy
4400 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20016


Claudia Persico is an assistant professor in the Department of Public Administration and Policy in the School of Public Affairs at American University (formerly, the University of Wisconsin-Madison).  She has a PhD in Human Development and Social Policy from SESP at Northwestern. Her research interests include inequality, the intersection between environmental and education policy, and the influence of interventions and environmental conditions on children with disabilities. Prior to attending Northwestern University, Claudia worked as a research assistant studying the neurobiology of autism in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the Boston University School of Medicine. 


  • 2015 - Dissertation Year Fellowship
  • 2014 - Society, Biology and Health Fellowship
  • 2013 - Institute for Policy Research Graduate Fellowship



Year Degree Institution
2016 PhD, Human Development and Social Policy
Human Development and Social Policy
Northwestern University
2014 MA, Human Development and Social Policy Northwestern University
2009 MA, Philosophy of Religion University of Chicago
2004 BA, Biology Boston University

Master's Project

Year Title  
2012 A Population-level Study of the Effects of Early Intervention for Autism

Selected Publications

Persico, C., Figlio, D. and Roth, J. (Working Paper/In Press/Under Review). Inequality Before Birth: The Developmental Consequences of Environmental Toxicants.
( Adobe Acrobat PDF Logo Download )

Jackson, C. Kirabo, Rucker Johnson, and Claudia Persico (2016). The Effects of School Spending on Educational and Economic Outcomes: Evidence from School Finance Reforms. Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Jackson, C. Kirabo, Johnson, Rucker, and Persico, Claudia (September, 2015). Boosting Educational Attainment and Adult Earnings: Does School Spending Matter After All?. Education Next, Vol 15, No 4.

Selected Presentations

Persico, C., Figlio, D., and Roth, J. (2015). Inequality Before Birth: The Developmental Consequences of Environmental Toxicants.  AEFP presentation. Washington, D.C..

Currie, J., Figlio, D., Goodman, J. Persico, C., Roth, J. (November, 2013). A Population-level Study of the Effects of Early Intervention for Autism. Presentations at APPAM and AEFP. Washington, D.C..

Research Interests

  • Inequality
  • Early Childhood Health and Education
  • Education Policy
  • School spending


Works In Progress

2014 The Effect of School Finance Reforms on the Distribution of Spending, Academic Achievement, and Adult Outcomes
(With C. Kirabo Jackson and Rucker Johnson) The school finance reforms (SFRs) that began in the early 1970s and accelerated in the 1980s caused some of the most dramatic changes in the structure of K-12 education spending in U.S. history. We analyze the effects of these reforms on the level and distribution of school district spending, as well as their effects on subsequent educational and economic outcomes.

2015 Inequality Before Birth: The Developmental Consequences of Environmental Toxicants
Millions of tons of hazardous wastes have been produced in the United States in the last 60 years which have been dispersed into the air, into water, and on and under the ground. Using new population-level data that follows cohorts of children born in the state of Florida between 1994 and 2002, this paper examines the short and long term effects of prenatal exposure to environmental toxicants on children living within two miles of a Superfund site. We compare siblings living within two miles from a Superfund site at birth where at least one sibling was conceived before or during cleanup of the site, and the other(s) was conceived after the site cleanup was completed using a family fixed effects model. Children conceived to mothers living within 2 miles of a Superfund site before it was cleaned are more likely to repeat a grade, have lower test scores, and be suspended from school than their siblings who were conceived after the site was cleaned. Children conceived to mothers living within one mile of a Superfund site before it was cleaned are more likely to be diagnosed with a learning disability than their later born siblings as well. However, no significant effects on any birth outcomes were observed. This study suggests that Superfund cleanup has significant positive effects on a variety of long term cognitive and developmental outcomes for children.

2016 A Population-level Study of Early Intervention for Autism
(With David Figlio, Janet Currie, Josh Goodman and Jeffrey Roth) Billions of dollars are spent each year on early diagnosis and intervention programs for autism. However, there is little reliable evidence about the effectiveness of these programs. Using population-level data on children with autism spectrum disorders attending school in Florida from 1990-2002, we evaluate the effects of a free, statewide early diagnosis and intervention program for autism called Early Steps. Families can receive autism diagnoses from one of 18 Early Steps centers located around the state. Using a difference-in-differences design, we compare autistic children who received free diagnostic and early intervention services via Early Steps to those who could not have received these services using early and later cohorts of children in Florida. We use children with learning disabilities who do not qualify for Early Steps as a comparison group.

2016 An Exploration of Racial Gaps in Special Education Identification
(With Todd Elder, David Figlio, and Scott Imberman) Special education is the primary mechanism through which students with disabilities are provided supplementary education services. Despite legal frameworks that seek to limit racial and economic gaps in the provision of these services, substantial gaps remain. However, it is largely unclear the extent to which these gaps reflect diff erences in actual disability incidence or other factors such as economic constraints and discrimination. In this study we use unique data from the State of Florida that links education records to birth certifi cate records to examine these gaps. The birth certi ficate data contains a wealth of economic and health data not typically available in administrative data, which provides us with the ability to examine this issue in unprecedented detail.

Last Updated: 2018-08-21 11:06:27