The prekindergarten age-cutoff regression-discontinuity design: Methodological issues and implications for application

Mark W. Lipsey, Christina Weiland, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Sandra Jo Wilson, Kerry G. Hofer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Much of the currently available evidence on the causal effects of public prekindergarten programs on school readiness outcomes comes from studies that use a regression-discontinuity design (RDD) with the age cutoff to enter a program in a given year as the basis for assignment to treatment and control conditions. Because the RDD has high internal validity when its key assumptions are met, these studies appear to provide strong evidence for the effectiveness of these programs. However, there are overlooked methodological problems in the way this design has typically been applied that have the potential to produce biased effect estimates. We describe these problems, argue that they deserve more attention from researchers using this design than they have received, and offer suggestions for improving future studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)296-313
Number of pages18
JournalEducational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015



  • Early childhood
  • Prekindergarten
  • Regression discontinuity
  • School readiness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

Cite this