Lynn A. Karoly

Photo of Lynn Karoly
Senior Economist
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 is a senior economist at the RAND Corporation. 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, 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 welfare reforms of the 1990s. In other work, she 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 behavaior, and labor markets in the Middle East. Karoly served as director of RAND's Office of Research Quality Assurance from 2004 to 2014 and director of RAND Labor and Population from 1995 to 2003. 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

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

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

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; 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


  • Teacher and children in a preschool classroom, photo by bernardbodo/Getty Images

    Making Preschool Investments Count Through the American Families Plan

    The American Families Plan would address disparities in preschool access by adding $200 billion for high-quality preschool for all three- and four-year-olds. How can we make sure that this historic investment, if approved by Congress, counts?

    Jun 3, 2021 The RAND Blog

  • Cincinnati DoorDash worker Renee Shell delivers an order from Walmart in Cincinnati, Ohio, July 1, 2018, photo by Lisa Baertlein/Reuters

    Do Workers' Protections Need to Depend on Employee Status? Looking Beyond AB 5

    As the nature of work evolves and the relationships between workers and firms become increasingly complex, it's possible that disentangling worker protections from worker classification rules will become a policy option worth further exploration.

    Oct 17, 2019 The RAND Blog

  • Technician working in a control room

    Carrier Deal Does Not Carry the Day for American Workers

    Despite the good intentions, pressuring companies like Carrier to keep jobs in the U.S. addresses only the smaller part of the problem, globalization, not the larger one, technological change. A long term solution would be to upgrade the education and training system so that students graduate with skills for life-long learning.

    Dec 21, 2016 United Press International

  • A man working at a 3D printer

    Evolving 21st-Century Workplace and the American Workforce: Trends and Policy Responses

    Three trends have important implications for the future of work: a shifting demography toward older workers, more women, and more diversity; continuing technological change that will increase the demand for skilled workers; and increased globalization.

    Aug 23, 2016 The RAND Blog

  • Preschool teachers or caregivers reading to children

    Investing in Kids Can Yield High Returns: Q&A with 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