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Does Head Start Do Any Lasting Good?

  • Chloe Gibbs
  • Jens Ludwig
  • Douglas L. Miller

Head Start is a federal early childhood intervention designed to reduce disparities in preschool outcomes. The first randomized experimental study of Head Start, the National Head Start Impact Study (NHSIS), found impacts on academic outcomes of .15 to .3 standard deviations measured at the end of the program year, although the estimated impacts were no longer significant when measured at the end of kindergarten or first grade. Assessments that Head Start is ineffective based on the NHSIS results are in our view premature, given our currently limited understanding of how and why early childhood education improves long-term life chances. Many of the specific changes to Head Start that have been proposed could potentially wind up doing more harm than good.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17452.

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Date of creation: Sep 2011
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Publication status: published as Chapter 1 Legacies of the War on Poverty 1 Martha J. Bailey and Sheldon Danziger
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17452
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Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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  1. James Heckman & Pedro Carneiro & Flavio Cunha, 2004. "The Technology of Skill Formation," 2004 Meeting Papers 681, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  2. Thomas, D. & Currie, J., 1993. "Does Head Start Make a Difference?," Papers 694, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
  3. 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.
  4. Jens Ludwig & Douglas L Miller, 2007. "Does Head Start Improve Children's Life Chances? Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(1), pages 159-208, 02.
  5. Murnane, Richard J & Willett, John B & Levy, Frank, 1995. "The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(2), pages 251-66, May.
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  7. Lance Lochner & Enrico Moretti, 2001. "The Effect of Education on Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates, Arrests, and Self-Reports," NBER Working Papers 8605, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Jens Ludwig & Deborah A. Phillips, 2007. "The Benefits and Costs of Head Start," NBER Working Papers 12973, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. 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.
  10. David Deming, 2009. "Early Childhood Intervention and Life-Cycle Skill Development: Evidence from Head Start," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(3), pages 111-34, July.
  11. Janet Currie & Duncan Thomas, 1999. "Early Test Scores, Socioeconomic Status and Future Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 6943, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. 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).
  13. Vivian C. Wong & Thomas D. Cook & W. Steven Barnett & Kwanghee Jung, 2008. "An effectiveness-based evaluation of five state pre-kindergarten programs," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(1), pages 122-154.
  14. 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.
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