The head of the UCL Economics Department has been awarded a prize for his work in the field of child and youth development.
Professor Orazio P. Attanasio, who is both the head of the UCL economics department and research director as the Institute for Fiscal Studies, was awarded the 2016 Klaus J. Jacobs Prize.
Founded in 1989 by the entrepreneur Klaus J. Jacobs, the prize, which shares the name of its founder, is awarded twice a year for work in the fields of early age development.
Using economic models and field experiments, Prof. Attanasio’s work has helped shape health and education policies concerning childhood development in low and middle income countries.
Prof. Attanasio says, “250 million children under the age of 5 in developing countries are at risk of not achieving their developmental potential…The poorest kids get to school at age 6 with a language development of three and a half years old.”
Many of the schools in the developing world do not have the facilities to cater to children who arrive already behind the level that the initial curriculum requires and, as a result, struggle to cope throughout their education.
Attanasio worked in 96 Colombian towns, meeting weekly at the homes of 1,429 children to promote both the mother’s engagement with their children and the children’s interaction with toys and books.
The results were staggering; children who participated in this programme showed significantly higher cognition and language skills than those who did not, changes which were highly noticeable after only 18 months.
With the 1 million Swiss Francs given as a part of the prize, Prof. Attanasio, by targeting different age groups and regions in the country, will be better able to understand the effects these variations may have on results.
In 2015, the Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize was awarded to another UCL professor, neuroscientist Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, whose work proved that the brain continues to develop after early childhood.
Featured image: UCL