The Reggio Project


The Reggio Approach is an early childhood approach in Northern Italy that encourages child-led learning in an open learning environment. Although it is a widely adapted form of early childhood education, there is no published evidence of its effectiveness. This project aims to evaluate the Reggio Approach along several dimensions, such as social-emotional skills, labor market participation, and health.

Because the Reggio Approach was implemented in Reggio Emilia, Italy, we collect survey data from five cohorts of individuals who were raised in Reggio Emilia. The age span of the cohorts covers important milestones in the life cycle, allowing us evaluate the effects of the early intervention holistically. The two youngest cohorts represent the beginning and end of compulsory schooling. The individuals in the three adult cohort were in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. Analogous cohorts were interviewed in the nearby cities of Parma and Padova. These cities are similar to Reggio Emilia along certain characteristics, but do not have the Reggio Approach.

We analyze this sample using several methods to compare within and across cities. We also present estimates that account for differential selection into the different school types. We further bolster this analysis with a survey to Italian early childhood education professionals to understand details about the trajectory of alternative preschool systems in the three cities.


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Frequently Asked Questions

1What are the key components of the Reggio Approach?
The Reggio Approach does not contain a curriculum in that there are no predetermined milestones or educational structure to the day. Instead, children collaborate with each other and the teachers to construct research projects that allow them to explore curiosities and build skills. Children are encouraged to pursue these research projects using an arts framework. This framework is cultivated by atelieristas, which are specialized educators with backgrounds in the fine arts. The open structure of the schools, including classrooms with natural light, further encourages this child-led research. The schools extend the collaboration outside the classroom by including schools’ cooks and janitors in the educational experience and cultivating strong relationships with the children’s families and larger community.
2What other preschool options are available?
The Reggio Approach is the municipal school system in Reggio Emilia. Other preschools can be run by the state, religious, or secular private organizations. We work to document details on the pedagogical and administrative differences between these schools and the Reggio Approach schools.
3How has the preschool enrollment changed over the decades?
Infant-toddler care (ages 0-3) was uncommon for the oldest adult cohort we examine. Over the years, this became more common. Even in the youngest cohort, however, children are not ubiquitously enrolled in infant-toddler care. In the younger cohorts, it is rare to attend no preschool (ages 3-6).

Cohort Structure and Possible Preschool Experiences


Project Team

Linor Kiknadze

The University of Chicago

Jessica Koh

Sylvi Kuperman

Sidharth Moktan

Nirali Trivedi

Anna Ziff