Lynn A. Karoly

Photo of Lynn Karoly
Senior Economist; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School
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Ph.D. and M.A. in economics, Yale University; B.A. in economics, Claremont McKenna College

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email

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Lynn Karoly is a RAND senior economist and a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. Her recent research has focused on human capital investments, social welfare policy, child and family well-being, and labor markets. Much of her recent child policy research has focused on early care and education (ECE) programs with studies of their use and quality, publicly subsidized programs such as Head Start, professional development for the ECE workforce, and quality rating and improvement systems. As part of her research on social welfare programs, she is currently leading an evaluation of recent reforms to CalWORKs, California's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Related work includes an assessment of the causal impacts of the major U.S. means-tested cash, in-kind, and human capital investment programs and a comprehensive synthesis of the welfare reforms of the 1990s. In other work, she has applied benefit-cost analysis and related tools to evaluate social programs including early childhood interventions and youth development programs. Other research has focused on self-employment and retirement patterns among older workers; the future of the workforce and workplace in the United States; and human capital, labor market, and demographic policies in the Middle East. Karoly served as the director of RAND's Office of Research Quality Assurance from 2004 to 2014 and as director of RAND Labor and Population from 1995 to 2003. Her professional service includes editorial roles for the Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis and The Journal of Human Resources. Karoly received her Ph.D. in economics from Yale University.

Previous Positions

Director, RAND Labor and Population

Recent Projects

  • Validating early care and education quality rating and improvement systems
  • Effects of welfare reform on family and child well-being
  • Costs and benefits of early childhood interventions
  • Benefit-cost analysis of social programs
  • Implications of various trends for the future U.S. workforce, workplace, and compensation

Selected Publications

Marianne P. Bitler and Lynn A. Karoly, "Intended and Unintended Effects of the War on Poverty: What Research Tells Us and Implications for Policy," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 34(3):639-696, 2015

Lynn A. Karoly, Gail L. Zellman, and Michal Perlman, "Understanding Variation in Classroom Quality Within Early Childhood Centers: Evidence from Colorado's Quality Rating and Improvement System," Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28(4), 2013

Lynn A. Karoly, "Toward Standardization of Benefit-Cost Analyses of Early Childhood Interventions," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, 3(1), 2012

Julie Zissimopoulos and Lynn A. Karoly, "Employment and Self-Employment in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina," Demography, 47(2), 2010

Lynn A. Karoly, Preschool Adequacy and Efficiency in California: Issues, Policy Options, and Recommendations, RAND Corporation (MG-889), 2009

Lynn A. Karoly, M. Rebecca Kilburn, and Jill Cannon, Early Childhood Interventions: Proven Results, Future Promise, RAND Corporation (MG-341), 2005

Jeffrey Grogger and Lynn A. Karoly, Welfare Reform: Effects of a Decade of Change, Harvard University Press, 2005

Lynn A. Karoly and Constantijn W. A. Panis, The 21st Century at Work: Forces Shaping the Future Workforce and Workplace in the United States, RAND Corporation (MG-164), 2004

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: Associated Press; Chicago Tribune; CNN; Marketplace Morning Report; San Diego Union-Tribune; San Francisco Chronicle; San Jose Mercury News; USA Today; Wall Street Journal

Commentary: The Center for High Impact Philanthropy; The Guardian; Los Angeles Times; Social Policy Report of the Society for Research in Child Development


  • Preschool teachers or caregivers reading to children

    Investing in Kids Can Yield High Returns: Q&A with Dr. Lynn A. Karoly

    There is strong evidence of large potential economic returns to investing in high quality early childhood programs, but that doesn't mean that every program will generate equally large returns. Many programs likely have a “threshold” of quality and intensity that needs to be achieved in order to register positive returns.

    Apr 8, 2015 The Center for High Impact Philanthropy

  • U.S. President Barack Obama playing a game with children in a pre-kindergarten classroom

    Benefit-Cost Analyses of Child and Family Preventive Interventions

    In thinking about scaling programs and services for children, youth, and families, the research community should consider economic evidence as part of their research programs in order to inform funding decisions.

    Mar 12, 2015 Social Policy Report of the Society for Research in Child Development

  • Preschool children using letters with a teacher

    Give Poor Kids a Chance with Early Education

    Federal and state initiatives to advance preschool program quality will further ensure that these investments in early learning programs will achieve their full promise and promote healthy child development — physically, socially, emotionally, and academically, writes Lynn Karoly.

    Apr 10, 2013 The Guardian

  • Preschool children and teacher

    Bernanke Knows a Good Investment When He Sees One

    Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve System Ben S. Bernanke cited RAND studies that have documented the importance of investing early in children's learning as he made the case that early education programs are one of the best investments that society can make in its future.

    Aug 2, 2012

  • Preschool children drawing with pencils

    Children Left Behind with Brown's Cuts to Programs

    Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget for the next fiscal year slices funds from established, successful programs that for decades have helped California's youngest and most at-risk children gain a foothold in their own educations.

    Jun 24, 2012 Sacramento Bee

  • Benefits of Preschool Come with Every Dollar

    Published commentary by RAND staff: Benefits of Preschool Come with Every Dollar, in the Los Angeles Times.

    Apr 26, 2006 Los Angeles Times