Fatih Unlu

Photo of Fatih Unlu
Director of Labor, Workforce Development, and Postsecondary Education Program; Senior Economist
Santa Monica Office


Ph.D. in economics, Princeton University; M.A. in economics, Princeton University; B.S. in electrical engineering, Bilkent University

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Fatih Unlu is the director of the Labor, Workforce Development, and Postsecondary Education Program and a senior economist at the RAND Corporation. He has sixteen years of experience conducting rigorous evaluations of education and workforce development programs and interventions. His portfolio includes evaluations of programs that aim to increase students' and adult learners' access to and success in postsecondary and career technical education including early college high schools, dual credit pathways, career coaching, programs addressing college students' basic needs, mentoring interventions that aim to improve student persistence in college, and a coaching program that supports high school seniors in their transition to college. He contributed to evaluations of education programs such as alternative principal and teacher preparation programs, the Federal Reading First program, interventions that aim to improve academic language proficiency of English learners, an early reading curriculum, early math interventions, and extended learning time initiatives enacted in New York City and Massachusetts.   

Unlu has substantial expertise in designing and conducting systematic evidence reviews and is a certified What Works Clearinghouse reviewer. He has presented and written on a wide array of research methodology topics. He is a coeditor of the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness and has published in Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, AERA Open, American Journal of Evaluation, Peabody Journal of Education, and Journal of Research in Mathematics Education. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University.

Previous Positions

Principal Scientist, Abt Associates

Selected Publications

Unlu, F., Lauen, D., Fuller, S. C., Berglund, T., and Estera E. , "Can Quasi-Experimental Evaluations that Rely on State Longitudinal Data Systems Replicate Experimental Results: Findings from a Within-Study Comparison. ," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 40, 2021

Edmunds, J.A., Unlu, F., Furey, J., Glennie, E., & Arshavsky, N., "What happens when you combine high school and college? The impact of the early college model on postsecondary performance and completion.," Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 42(2), 2020

Westine, C., Unlu, F., Taylor, Spybrook, J., Zhang, Q., and Anderson, B., "Design Parameters for Impact Evaluations of Science and Mathematics Interventions Involving Teacher Outcomes," Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 13(4), 2020

Edmunds, J. A., Unlu, F., Glennie, E., Bernstein, L., Fesler, L., Furey, J., & Arshavsky, N. , "Smoothing the transition to postsecondary education: The impact of the early college model.," Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 2017, 42(2), 2017

Unlu, F., Bozzi, L., Layzer, C., Smith, A., Price, C., and Hurtig, R. "Linking Implementation Fidelity to Outcomes in an RCT.," in G. Roberts (Ed.), S. Vaughn (Ed.), N. Beretvas (Ed.), and V. Wong (Ed.), Treatment Fidelity in Studies of Educational Intervention., Abingdon: Rutledge., 2017

Porter, K., Reardon, S. F., Unlu, F., Bloom, H. S., and Robinson-Cimpian, J.P. , "Estimating Causal Effects of Education Interventions Using a Two-Rating Regression Discontinuity Design: Lessons from a Simulation Study and an Application. ," Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 2017.

Unlu, F. "Civic Engagement and Education," in Brewer, D.J. & Picus, L.O. ed. , Encyclopedia of Education Economics and Finance, SAGE, 2014

Reardon, S.F., Unlu, F., Zhu, P., & Bloom, H. , "Bias and Bias Correction in Multi-Site Instrumental Variables Analysis of Heterogeneous Mediator Effects," Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, 2014.


  • Back view of large group of students paying attention on a class at lecture hall, photo by skynesher/Getty Images

    Is It Time to Rethink the Separation Between the High School and Postsecondary Systems?

    We do not yet know how long or deep this economic downturn will be, or how the pandemic will affect the way we work and learn. But just as the post-coronavirus workplace is surely being re-envisioned, this crisis should motivate us to reconsider the structure of our educational system. Early college is a model that can help inform these discussions.

    Apr 16, 2020 Brookings Institution's Brown Center Chalkboard

  • High school and college students walking together, photo by Steve Debenport/Getty Images

    Dual Enrollment for High Schoolers Can Expand Access to College—with Some Caveats

    Targeted federal investments in high school and college dual enrollment programs can boost postsecondary access for students currently underrepresented in postsecondary education. But thoughtful implementation could be key to ensuring those students are successful in college.

    Jun 6, 2019 The RAND Blog