Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

Professor of Human Development and Social Policy | Chair of IPR’s Program on Child, Adolescent, and Family Studies


Economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach studies policies aimed at improving the lives of children in poverty, including education, health, and income support policies. Her recent work has focused on tracing the impact of major public policies such as the Food Stamp Program and early childhood education on children’s long-term outcomes. 

Her research has received financial support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Education, the Spencer Foundation and the Smith-Richardson Foundation, and has been published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, American Economic Review, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, the Review of Economics and Statistics, and the Journal of Human Resources, among other outlets.

Schanzenbach is the Director of the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution. She is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a research associate at the Institute for Research on Poverty, and a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. From 2002 to 2004, she was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of California, Berkeley. She joined the Northwestern faculty and IPR in 2010 from the Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago.

Current Research

School Finance Reform. Schanzenbach and economists Julien Lafortune and Jesse Rothstein of the University of California, Berkeley, are studying the impacts of the recent wave of state school finance reforms that were to direct more resources to low-income school districts. They find that school finance reforms lead to immediate and sharp increases in spending in low-income districts that are sustained over time. This project is one of the first studies to examine the effects of school finance reforms on student achievement at a large scale, using NAEP math and reading scores that have been collected for large representative samples of 4th and 8th graders every few years since 1990. They find that reforms cause increases in student achievement in low-income districts, phasing in gradually over the years following the reform.

Impacts of Nutrition Assistance Programs. With various coauthors, Schanzenbach is working on understanding the impacts of nutrition assistance programs—including the food-stamp program and school meals. In this ongoing work, she investigates child outcomes such as health, obesity, and academic outcomes, and outcomes regarding family finances such as food security and spending.

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Hoynes, H., D. W. Schanzenbach, and D. Almond. 2016. Long-run impacts of childhood access to the safety netAmerican Economic Review 106(4): 903-34.

Cascio, E., and D. W. Schanzenbach. 2016. First in the class? Age and the education production function. Education Finance and Policy 11(3): 225-250.

Barrow, L., D. W. Schanzenbach, and A. Classens. 2015. The impact of Chicago’s small high school initiative. Journal of Urban Economics 87: 100-113.

Anderson, P., K. Butcher, and D. W. Schanzenbach. 2015. Changes in safety net use during the Great Recession. American Economic Review 105(5): 161-65.

Cascio, E., and D. W. Schanzenbach. 2013. The impacts of expanding access to high-quality preschool education. Brookings Papers on Economic Activity 2013: 127-78.

Hoynes, H., and D. W. Schanzenbach. 2012. Work incentives and the Food Stamp Program. Journal of Public Economics 96(1-2): 151–62.

Almond, D., H. Hoynes, and D. W. Schanzenbach. 2011. Inside the war on poverty: The impact of food stamps on birth outcomes. Review of Economics and Statistics 93(2): 387–404.

Chetty, R., J. Friedman, N. Hilger, E. Saez, D. W. Schanzenbach, and D. Yagan. 2011. How does your kindergarten classroom affect your earnings? Evidence from Project STAR. Quarterly Journal of Economics 126(4): 1593–1660.

Neal, D., and D. W. Schanzenbach. 2010. Left behind by design: Proficiency counts and test-based accountability. The Review of Economics and Statistics 92(2): 263-83.