Carolyn J. Heinrich

Professor of Public Policy, Education and Economics, Peabody College of Education and Human Development and Department of Economics, Vanderbilt University
Chapter Member: Tennessee SSN
Areas of Expertise:

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About Carolyn

Heinrich’s research focuses on education and social welfare policy, public management and performance management, and social program evaluation. She is currently engaged in research to improve education and training program effectiveness, including the evaluation of K-12 public school interventions and federal workforce development programs, as well as other ongoing research on labor market outcomes for low-skilled and disadvantaged workers, performance management and contracting, and poverty reduction efforts. She frequently works with federal, state and local governments and also collaborates with nongovernmental organizations such as the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, UNICEF and others in research to improve program and policy design and the impacts of social protection and poverty reduction efforts in middle-income and developing countries.


Economists' Letter on Recovery Policy

  • Elizabeth Oltmans Ananat
  • Peter Diamond
  • Darrick Hamilton
  • Carolyn J. Heinrich
  • Michael Klein
  • Matthew Kraft

Online Learning and Implications for Inequality in the Classroom

  • Jennifer Darling-Aduana
  • Annalee Good

Critical Issues about Online Credit Recovery Programs in America's Schools

  • Jennifer Darling-Aduana
  • Annalee Good

Schools are Racing to Adopt Digital Tools without Solid Evidence That They Boost Student Achievement

  • Patricia Burch
  • Annalee Good
  • Chandi Wagner

Helping Parents Give Children a Healthy Start

No Jargon Podcast

In the News

Opinion: "The Trump Administration’s Assault on Asylum Seekers," Carolyn J. Heinrich, Washington Monthly, February 14, 2019.
Opinion: "No Need to Feel Hopeless in Fight to End Harm to Children at the Border," Carolyn J. Heinrich, The Hill, July 26, 2018.
Opinion: "A Christmas Story at Our Border," Carolyn J. Heinrich, The Hill, December 25, 2017.
Opinion: "House Tax Bill Harms Path to Economic Opportunity for All," Carolyn J. Heinrich, The Hill, November 14, 2017.
Opinion: "Don't Waste Money on a Wall, When Our Roads and Bridges are Crumbling," Carolyn J. Heinrich, The Hill, August 25, 2017.
Opinion: "Let the Evidence Have Its Day in Policymaking," Carolyn J. Heinrich, The Hill, June 16, 2016.
Opinion: "SAT Changes Show Just How Rigged It was to Begin With," Carolyn J. Heinrich, Talking Points Memo, March 8, 2014.
Research discussed by Lesli A. Maxwell, in "Study: District Tutoring Outperforms Private-Sector Services," Education Week, July 1, 2013.
Opinion: "Texas Leads in Tests but Not in Education," Carolyn J. Heinrich, Texas Tribune, March 26, 2013.
Research discussed by Patrick Michels, in "Why High-Cost Tutoring Programs are Great for Business, but Lousy for Students," Texas Observer, October 23, 2012.


"Consequences of Administrative Burden for Social Safety Nets that Support the Healthy Development of Children" (with Sayil Camacho, Sarah Clark Henderson, Monica Hernandez, and Ela Joshi). Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 41, no. 1 (2022): 11-44.

Investigates challenges that low-income families face in accessing health and human services critical for their children's healthy development. Employs a mixed methods approach—drawing on administrative data on economically disadvantaged children in Tennessee, publicly available data on resource allocations and expenditures, and data collected in purposive and randomly sampled interviews with public and nonprofit agencies across the state—to analyze the distribution of resources relative to children's needs and provide rich descriptions of the experiences of organizations striving to overcome administrative burdens and support families. 

"An Audit Test Evaluation of State Practices for Supporting Access to and Promoting COVID-19 Vaccinations" (with Sayil Camacho, Kaitlin Binsted, and Shadlan Gale). Social Science & Medicine 301 (2022).

Discusses a field experiment, using a paired audit testing design with testers of different racial and language profiles, was conducted to document and evaluate individual encounters in inquiring about COVID-19 vaccinations in the U.S. states.

"The Efficacy of Private Sector Providers in Improving Public Educational Outcomes" (with Hiren Nisar). American Educational Research Journal 50, no. 5 (2013): 856-894.
Estimates the effectiveness of providers of supplemental educational services in increasing the math and reading achievement of disadvantaged, urban public school students who are attending schools that are not making adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind.
"Cream-Skimming, Parking and Other Intended and Unintended Effects of High-Powered, Performance-Based Contracts" (with Pierre Koning). Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 32, no. 3 (2013): 461-483.
Analyzes the effects of high-powered, performance-based incentives in contracts between the Dutch government and private providers of training and social welfare services to unemployed and disabled workers.
"Do Public Employment and Training Programs Work? Nonexperimental Net Impact Estimates of the Workforce Investment Act Program" (with Peter Mueser and Kenneth R. Trosk). IZA Journal of Labor Economics 2, no. 6 (2013).
Presents estimates of the impacts of the primary, publicly-funded employment and training program—the Workforce Investment Act – on the employment and earnings of program participants.
"Improving Education and Employment for Disadvantaged Young Men: Proven and Promising Strategies" (with Harry J. Holzer). The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 635 (2011): 163-191.
Compiles and reviews the evidence on programs and policies aimed at improving: youth development for disadvantaged adolescents and young teens; educational attainment and employment for in-school youth; and "reconnecting" those who are out of school and frequently out of work to identify programmatic strategies that are promising or proven based on rigorous evaluations.
"Incentives and their Dynamics in Public Sector Performance Management Systems" (with Gerald R. Marschke). Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 29, no. 1 (2010): 183-208.
Reviews the growing body of evidence about how performance measurement and incentive systems function in practice and how individuals and organizations respond and adapt to them over time, and it also presents a dynamic framework for ongoing research that takes into account expected strategic behavior of individuals and its implications for accurate measurement of performance over time.
"Evidence-Based Policy and Performance Management: Challenges and Prospects in Two Parallel Movements" The American Review of Public Administration 37, no. 3 (2007): 255-277.
Addresses questions about what should count as evidence, how it should be communicated, who should judge the quality and reliability of evidence and performance information, and how to achieve a balance between processes that produce rigorous information for decision making and those that foster democratic governance and accountability.