Earlier this year, President Obama announced a plan to provide public pre-K education to low- and middle-income children, a proposal that has provoked debate about the actual demonstrated benefits of early education. As Freakonomics guest contributors John List and Uri Gneezy wrote here a few months ago, there's a frustrating lack of information on how effective these kinds of programs are -- although List and Gneezy are trying to rectify that gap with their Chicago Heights research project.
A new working paper (abstract; PDF) by Elizabeth U. Cascio and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach attempts to shed some light on the question by analyzing the effects of universal public preschool programs in Georgia and Oklahoma, two states that have already implemented such programs. Their findings are interesting: the programs seem to improve some outcomes for lower-income kids, but also result in higher-income families shifting kids from private to public preschool. Here's the abstract: