Professor Carbonaro uses quantitative research methods to study education and inequality. He has published numerous studies on topics related to inequalities in learning opportunities within and between schools, and how these inequalities affect learning outcomes and educational attainment. He has also studied how friendships and peers affect student outcomes, as well as how out-of-school contexts (extracurricular activities) are related to student cognitive and socioemotional development. Finally, in a number of papers, he has analyzed how schooling and cognitive skills are related to income inequality, both in the U.S. and other industrialized nations.
Carbonaro's recent work focuses on school effects on student learning using state administrative data from Indiana. Some of this work shows the importance of school composition (such the percentage of low-income students in a school) for student achievement. In other work (in progress), he finds that schools are more important for student learning than prior research suggests. Interestingly, schools tend be equalizers (reducing inequality) in some respects, but stratifiers (increasing inequality) in others.