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The Benefits and Costs of Head Start

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  • Jens Ludwig
  • Deborah A. Phillips
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    Abstract

    In this essay we review what is known about Head Start and argue that the program is likely to generate benefits to participants and society as a whole that are large enough to justify the program's costs. Our conclusions differ importantly from those offered in some previous reviews because we use a more appropriate standard to judge the success of Head Start (namely, benefit-cost analysis), draw on new accumulating evidence for Head Start's long-term effects on early cohorts of program participants, and discuss why common interpretations of a recent randomized experimental evaluation of Head Start's short-term impacts may be overly pessimistic. While in principle there could be more beneficial ways of deploying Head Start resources, the benefits of such changes remain uncertain and there is some downside risk.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12973.

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    Date of creation: Mar 2007
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    Publication status: published as Ludwig, Jens and Deborah A. Phillips (2007) “The Benefits and Costs of Head Start.” Society for Research on Child Development, Social Policy Report. Volume XXI, Number 3.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12973

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    1. Jonathan Gruber & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2002. "Do Cigarette Taxes Make Smokers Happier?," NBER Working Papers 8872, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Currie, Janet & Thomas, Duncan, 1995. "Does Head Start Make a Difference?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 341-64, June.
    3. Katherine A. Magnuson & Christopher J. Ruhm & Jane Waldfogel, 2004. "Does Prekindergarten Improve School Preparation and Performance?," NBER Working Papers 10452, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Janet Currie & Matthew Neidell, 2003. "Getting Inside the "Black Box" of Head Start Quality: What Matters and What Doesn't?," NBER Working Papers 10091, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Garces, E. & Thomas, D. & Currie, J., 2000. "Longer Term Effects of Head Start," Papers, RAND - Labor and Population Program 00-20, RAND - Labor and Population Program.
    6. Richard J. Murnane & John B. Willett & Frank Levy, 1995. "The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination," NBER Working Papers 5076, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Janet Currie, 2001. "Early Childhood Education Programs," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 15(2), pages 213-238, Spring.
    8. Alan B. Krueger, 2002. "Economic Considerations and Class Size," NBER Working Papers 8875, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Knudsen, Eric I. & Heckman, James J. & Cameron, Judy L. & Shonkoff, Jack P., 2006. "Economic, Neurobiological and Behavioral Perspectives on Building America's Future Workforce," IZA Discussion Papers 2190, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Ludwig, Jens & Miller, Douglas L., 2006. "Does Head Start Improve Children's Life Chances? Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design," IZA Discussion Papers 2111, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    11. James Heckman & Pedro Carneiro, 2003. "Human Capital Policy," NBER Working Papers 9495, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Philip J. Cook & Jens Ludwig, 2006. "Aiming for evidence-based gun policy," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(3), pages 691-735.
    13. Janet Currie & Duncan Thomas, 1999. "Early Test Scores, Socioeconomic Status and Future Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 6943, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Jonathan Gruber & Botond Koszegi, 2002. "A Theory of Government Regulation of Addictive Bads: Optimal Tax Levels and Tax Incidence for Cigarette Excise Taxation," NBER Working Papers 8777, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Card, David, 2001. "Estimating the Return to Schooling: Progress on Some Persistent Econometric Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 69(5), pages 1127-60, September.
    16. Clive R Belfield & Milagros Nores & Steve Barnett & Lawrence Schweinhart, 2006. "The High/Scope Perry Preschool Program: Cost–Benefit Analysis Using Data from the Age-40 Followup," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(1).
    17. William T. Gormley, Jr. & Ted Gayer, 2005. "Promoting School Readiness in Oklahoma: An Evaluation of Tulsa's Pre-K Program," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(3).
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    Cited by:
    1. Cory Koedel & Teerachat Techapaisarnjaroenkit, 2010. "The Relative Performance of Head Start," Working Papers, Department of Economics, University of Missouri 1009, Department of Economics, University of Missouri, revised 29 Jun 2011.
    2. Arteaga, Irma & Humpage, Sarah & Reynolds, Arthur J. & Temple, Judy A., 2014. "One year of preschool or two: Is it important for adult outcomes?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 221-237.
    3. Kathryn H. Anderson & James E. Foster & David E. Frisvold, 2010. "Investing In Health: The Long-Term Impact Of Head Start On Smoking," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 48(3), pages 587-602, 07.
    4. Emiliana Vegas & Lucrecia Santibáñez, 2010. "The Promise of Early Childhood Development in Latin America and the Caribbean," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 9385, August.
    5. Belfield, Clive R. & Kelly, Inas Rashad, 2013. "Early education and health outcomes of a 2001 U.S. Birth Cohort," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 310-325.
    6. Chloe Gibbs & Jens Ludwig & Douglas L. Miller, 2011. "Does Head Start Do Any Lasting Good?," NBER Working Papers 17452, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Sandner, Malte, 2013. "Effects of Early Childhood Intervention on Child Development and Early Skill Formation. Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial," Hannover Economic Papers (HEP), Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät dp-518, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät.

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