UCL News


UCL economist receives Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize

12 October 2016

The Jacobs Foundation have awarded Professor Orazio Attanasio, Head of UCL Economics and Research Director at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), 1 million Swiss francs for his use of economic models and field experiments to assess and shape early child development programs and policies in low income countries.

Professor Orazio Attanasio

Professor Attanasio receives the 2016 Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize in recognition of his groundbreaking achievements in child and youth development. His work has pushed research frontiers by using economic models in combination with field experiments to assess and shape health and education policies in early childhood development in low-income and middle-income settings.

Inspired by a home-visiting program in Jamaica, Professor Attanasio and his team designed a stimulation and nutrition program delivered through home visits for communities in 96 Colombian towns, including the largest evaluation of a program of this kind.

After 18 months, the children in this program had significantly higher cognition and language skills. The research team could show that the developmental improvements were due to the parents "investing" in more time with their children (important for socio-economic skills) and in stimulating materials such as toys and books (important for cognitive development).

Professor Attanasio said: "250 million children under age 5 in developing countries are at risk of not achieving their developmental potential. We want parents to invest in their children by stimulating them. It is crucial to understand how these parental investments shape children's development as this will impact the design of effective programs and policies".

With the Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize money, Attanasio will implement and evaluate an intervention in rural India to provide children with better quality childcare in different settings and for different age groups. This will generate new evidence on the interaction of early interventions at home and center-based interventions for older children.

Video interview:

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The Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize 2015 went to UCL neuroscientist Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore for her research on understanding emotional and social brain development during adolescence.