Francesco Agostinelli, a member of our Early Childhood Interventions network, recently met with HCEO to discuss his work studying child development. He is interested in skill formation in children, and understanding how to foster those skills.

One part of his research agenda is focusing on new methods to try and identify how children's skills evolve throughout childhood. "This is challenging because the child's skills are not observed," he says. Building on the work of HCEO Co-Director James Heckman and other scholars, Agostinelli uses test scores to measure skills. He notes this research is relevant to policymakers as it helps identify at what age interventions might be most effective and also which children such interventions should target.

Agostinelli also studies peer effects on child development. One project in this area looks at peer effects from a parent's perspective, which impacts parental investment decisions. "What it shows is that the social interaction is in fact important," he says. "It creates important dynamic interdependencies between parents in the same social environment, like a school."

As a Ph.D. student, Agostinelli was very interested in findings that showed how early childhood can predict later success in life. "I find it extremely fascinating, this fact," he says. "I want to think about new mechanisms, new ideas which this can be explained."

This interest led him to attend HCEO's Summer School on Socioeconomic Inequality at the University of Chicago. "That was important for me in continuing working on this topic," he says. "I believe that as a young scholar, to improve and to push the current state of research, it's important that we implement interdisciplinary approaches and tools."

Agostinelli is an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Pennsylvania.