Lynn A. Karoly

Lynn A. Karoly
Senior Economist; Professor of Policy Analysis, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Off Site Office


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

More Experts


Lynn Karoly (she/her) is a senior economist at RAND and a professor of policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. Her research has examined 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 childhood care and education (ECCE) programs with studies of their use and quality, publicly subsidized programs such as Head Start, compensation and professional development for the ECCE workforce, quality rating and improvement systems, ECCE cost and financing, and birth through five (B–5) systems. In other work, she recently led an evaluation of recent reforms to CalWORKs, California's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Related research includes an assessment of causal impacts of the major U.S. means-tested cash, in-kind, and human capital investment programs and a comprehensive synthesis of the 1990s welfare reforms.

Karoly has applied benefit-cost analysis and related economic evaluation tools to social programs including early childhood interventions and youth development programs. Other studies have focused on the future of the workforce and workplace in the United States, state-level immigration policies, self-employment behavior, and labor markets in the Middle East. Karoly served as director of RAND's Office of Research Quality Assurance and director of RAND Labor and Population. Her professional service includes serving as the 2017 president of the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis and 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; Director, RAND Office of Research Quality Assurance

Recent Projects

  • Cost and financing of early childhood education and care
  • Benefit-cost analysis of early childhood interventions and other social programs
  • OECD Starting Strong Teaching and Learning International Survey
  • Effects of welfare reform on family and child well-being
  • Implications of various trends for the future U.S. workforce, workplace, and compensation

Selected Publications

Karoly, Lynn A., Aaron Strong, and Christopher Joseph Doss, Vermont Early Care and Education Financing Study: Estimated Costs, Financing Options, and Economic Impacts, RAND Corporation (RR-A2213-1), 2023

Jill S. Cannon, M. Rebecca Kilburn, Lynn A. Karoly, Teryn Mattox, Ashley Muchow, and Maya Buenaventura, Investing Early: Taking Stock of Outcomes and Economic Returns from Early Childhood Programs, RAND (RR-1993), 2017

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

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), 2015

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

Melanie A. Zaber, Lynn A. Karoly, and Katie Whipkey, Reimagining the Workforce Development and Employment System for the 21st Century and Beyond, RAND Corporation (RR-2768), 2019

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

Honors & Awards

  • Member, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Committee on Financing Early Care and Education with a Highly Qualified Workforce, 2016-2018
  • Member, National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine Committee on the Use of Economic Evidence to Inform Investments in Children, Youth, and Families, 2015-2016
  • President, Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis, 2018

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: Associated Press; Chicago Tribune; CNN; KPCC AirTalk; 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