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Does Head Start Improve Children’s Life Chances? Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design

  • Doug Miller
  • Jens Ludwig

    (Department of Economics, University of California Davis)

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    This paper exploits a new source of variation in Head Start funding to identify the programs effects on health and schooling. In 1965 the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) provided technical assistance to the 300 poorest counties in the U.S. to develop Head Start funding proposals. The result was a large and lasting discontinuity in Head Start funding rates at the OEO cutoff for grant-writing assistance, but no discontinuity in other forms of federal social spending. We find evidence of a large negative discontinuity at the OEO cutoff in mortality rates for children ages 5-9 from causes that could be affected by Head Start, but not for other mortality causes or birth cohorts that should not be affected by the program. We also find suggestive evidence for a positive effect of Head Start on educational attainment in both the 1990 Census, concentrated among those cohorts born late enough to have been exposed to the program, and among respondents in the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988.

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    Paper provided by University of California, Davis, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 534.

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    Length: 71
    Date of creation: 28 Sep 2005
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:cda:wpaper:05-34
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    1. Case, Anne & Fertig, Angela & Paxson, Christina, 2005. "The lasting impact of childhood health and circumstance," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 365-389, March.
    2. Carneiro, Pedro & Heckman, James J., 2003. "Human Capital Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 821, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. repec:cup:jechis:v:60:y:2000:i:03:p:782-818_00 is not listed on IDEAS
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    7. Jonathan Guryan, 2001. "Desegregation and Black Dropout Rates," NBER Working Papers 8345, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Jonathan Guryan, 2001. "Does Money Matter? Regression-Discontinuity Estimates from Education Finance Reform in Massachusetts," NBER Working Papers 8269, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Anne Morrison Piehl & Suzanne J. Cooper & Anthony A. Braga & David M. Kennedy, 1999. "Testing for Structural Breaks in the Evaluation of Programs," NBER Working Papers 7226, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Janet Currie & Duncan Thomas, 1998. "School Quality and the Longer-Term Effects of Head Start," NBER Working Papers 6362, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Roland G. Fryer, Jr. & Steven D. Levitt, 2002. "Understanding the Black-White Test Score Gap in the First Two Years of School," NBER Working Papers 8975, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Donohue, John J, III & Siegelman, Peter, 1998. "Allocating Resources among Prisons and Social Programs in the Battle against Crime," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(1), pages 1-43, January.
    13. Hahn, Jinyong & Todd, Petra & Van der Klaauw, Wilbert, 2001. "Identification and Estimation of Treatment Effects with a Regression-Discontinuity Design," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(1), pages 201-09, January.
    14. William J. Collins & Robert A. Margo, 2004. "The Economic Aftermath of the 1960s Riots: Evidence from Property Values," NBER Working Papers 10493, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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