Our Team

W. Steven Barnett

Senior Co-Director, Founder
w. steven barnett
w. steven barnett
Phone: (848) 932-4350


W. Steven (Steve) Barnett is a Board of Governors Professor and the founder and Senior Co-Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University. Dr. Barnett’s work primarily focuses on public policies regarding early childhood education, child care, and child development. His research includes studies of the economics of early care and education including costs and benefits, the long-term effects of preschool programs on children’s learning and development, and the distribution of educational opportunities including participation in out-of-home early care and education as well as home learning activities. Dr. Barnett earned his Ph.D. in economics at the University of Michigan. He has authored or co-authored more than 300 publications.   

Beyond a broad interest in the economics of human development and education his research interests encompass the development of practical policies for translating research findings into effective public investments and bringing greater transparency and prominence to early childhood policies.  His best known works include: research on long-term effects of public preschool programs; benefit-cost analyses of the Perry Preschool and Abecedarian programs; randomized trials comparing alternative approaches to educating children including length of day, class size, monolingual versus dual-language immersion, and curriculum; research on preschool program impacts on executive function; and, the series of State of Preschool yearbooks providing annual state-by-state analyses of progress in public pre-K. 

Selected Publications

NIEER State of Preschool Series.  Available here 

Hahn, R. A., & Barnett, W. S. (2023). Early childhood education: Health, equity, and economics. Annual Review of Public Health, 44, 75-92. 

Barnett, W. S., & Jung, K. (2021). Effects of New Jersey's Abbott preschool program on children's achievement, grade retention, and special education through tenth grade. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 56, 248-259. 

Barnett, W. S., & Jung, K. (2021). Seven impacts of the pandemic on young children and their parents: Initial findings from NIEER’s December 2020 preschool learning activities survey. National Institute for Early Education Research. 

Barnett, W. S., Jung, K., Friedman-Krauss, A., Frede, E. C., Nores, M., Hustedt, J. T., ... & Daniel-Echols, M. (2018). State prekindergarten effects on early learning at kindergarten entry: An analysis of eight state programs. AERA Open, 4(2), 2332858418766291. 

Pianta, R., Barnett, W. S., Justice, L., & Sheridan, S. (Eds.) (2012). Handbook of early childhood education. New York, NY: Guilford Publications. 

Barnett, W. S. (2011). Four reasons the United States should offer every child a preschool education.  In E. Zigler, W. Gilliam, & W. S. Barnett (Eds.), The pre-k debates: Current controversies and issues (pp. 34-39). Baltimore: Brookes Publishing. 

Barnett, W. S. (2011). Effectiveness of early educational intervention. Science, 333, 975-978. 

Barnett, W. S. (2010). Universal and targeted approaches to preschool education in the United States. International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy, 4(1), 1-12. 

Camilli, G., Vargas, S., Ryan, S., & Barnett, W.S. (2010). Meta-analysis of the effects of early education interventions on cognitive and social development. Teachers College Record, 112(3), 579-620. 

Nores, M., & Barnett, W. S. (2010). Benefits of early childhood interventions across the world: (Under) Investing in the very young. Economics of Education Review, 29(2), 271-282. 

Barnett, W. S., Jung, K., Yarosz, D. J., Thomas, J., Hornbeck, A., Stechuk, R., & Burns, S. (2008).  Educational effects of the Tools of the Mind curriculum:  A randomized trial. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 23(3), 299-313. 

Diamond, A., Barnett, W. S., Thomas, J., & Munro, S. (2007).  Preschool program improves cognitive control.  Science, 318, 1387-1388. 

Barnett, W. S., Yarosz, D. J., Thomas, J., & Blanco, D. (2007) Two-way and monolingual English immersion in preschool education: An experimental comparison. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 22, 277-293. 

Barnett, W. S., & Masse, L. N. (2007).  Early childhood program design and economic returns: Comparative benefit-cost analysis of the Abecedarian program and policy implications, Economics of Education Review, 26, 113-125. 

Belfield, C., Nores, M., Barnett, W. S., & Schweinhart, L. (2006).  The High/Scope Perry Preschool Program:  Cost- benefit analysis using data from the age 40. Journal of Human Resources, 16(1), 162-190. 

Schweinhart, L. J., Montie, J., Xiang, Z., Barnett, W. S., Belfield, C. R., & Nores, M. (2005).  Lifetime effects:  The High/Scope Perry Preschool study through age 40 (Monographs of the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, 14).  Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Educational Research Foundation. 

Barnett, W. S., & Boocock, S. S. (Eds.) (1998). Early care and education for children in poverty:  Promises, programs, and long-term results. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. 

Barnett, W. S. (1996). Lives in the balance: Benefit-cost analysis of the Perry Preschool Program through age 27. Monographs of the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Press. 

Barnett, W. S. (1993). Benefit-cost analysis of preschool education: Findings from a 25-year follow-up. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 63(4), 500-508. 


A.B., Economics, Kenyon College 

M.A., Economics, University of Michigan 

Ph.D., Economics, University of Michigan