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Experimental Evidence on Distributional Effects of Head Start

Author

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  • Marianne P. Bitler
  • Hilary W. Hoynes
  • Thurston Domina

Abstract

This study provides the first comprehensive analysis of the distributional effects of Head Start, using the first national randomized experiment of the Head Start program (the Head Start Impact Study). We examine program effects on cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes and explore the heterogeneous effects of the program through 1st grade by estimating quantile treatment effects under endogeneity (IV-QTE) as well as various types of subgroup mean treatment effects and two-stage least squares treatment effects. We find that (the experimentally manipulated) Head Start attendance leads to large and statistically significant gains in cognitive achievement during the pre-school period and that the gains are largest at the bottom of the distribution. Once the children enter elementary school, the cognitive gains fade out for the full population, but importantly, cognitive gains persist through 1st grade for some Spanish speakers. These results provide strong evidence in favor of a compensatory model of the educational process. Additionally, our findings of large effects at the bottom are consistent with an interpretation that the relatively large gains in the well-studied Perry Preschool Program are in part due to the low baseline skills in the Perry study population. We find no evidence that the counterfactual care setting plays a large role in explaining the differences between the HSIS and Perry findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Marianne P. Bitler & Hilary W. Hoynes & Thurston Domina, 2014. "Experimental Evidence on Distributional Effects of Head Start," NBER Working Papers 20434, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20434
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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 111-134, July.
    2. James Heckman & Seong Hyeok Moon & Rodrigo Pinto & Peter Savelyev & Adam Yavitz, 2010. "Analyzing social experiments as implemented: evidence from the HighScope Perry Preschool Program," CeMMAP working papers CWP22/10, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    3. Elizabeth Cascio & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, 2013. "The Impacts of Expanding Access to High-Quality Preschool Education," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 44(2 (Fall)), pages 127-192.
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    6. 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, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(1), pages 159-208.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Cummins, Joseph R., 2017. "Heterogeneous treatment effects in the low track: Revisiting the Kenyan primary school experiment," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 40-51.
    2. Cascio, Elizabeth U., 2017. "Does Universal Preschool Hit the Target? Program Access and Preschool Impacts," IZA Discussion Papers 10596, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Sneha Elango & Jorge Luis García & James J. Heckman & Andrés Hojman, 2015. "Early Childhood Education," NBER Chapters,in: Economics of Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, Volume 2, pages 235-297 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. repec:aea:aejapp:v:10:y:2018:i:3:p:315-44 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Sandner, Malte & Thomsen, Stephan L., 2018. "The Effects of Universal Public Childcare Provision on Cases of Child Neglect and Abuse," IZA Discussion Papers 11687, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Ariel Marek Pihl, 2018. "Head Start and Mothers' Work: Free Child Care or Something More?," Working Papers 18-13, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    7. Jorge Luis García & James J. Heckman & Anna L. Ziff, 2017. "Gender Differences in the Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program," NBER Working Papers 23412, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Strittmatter, Anthony, 2014. "Why does the Job Corps increase gender earnings inequality?," Economics Working Paper Series 1429, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science, revised Apr 2017.
    9. Stephen B. Billings & Kevin T. Schnepel, 2018. "Life after Lead: Effects of Early Interventions for Children Exposed to Lead," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 315-344, July.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H52 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Education
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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