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Does Head Start Make a Difference?

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  • Janet Currie
  • Duncan Thomas

Abstract

Although there is a broad hi-partisan support for Head Start, the evidence of positive longterm effects of the program is not overwhelming. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey's Child-Mother file, we examine the impact of the program on a range of child outcomes. We compare non-parametric estimates of program effects with estimates from parametric models that control for selection by including mother fixed effects. This comparison suggests that studies that ignore selection can be substantially misleading; it also suggests that the impact of selection differs considerably across racial and ethnic groups. After controlling for selection, we find positive and persistent effects of participation in Head Start on the test scores of white and Hispanic children. These children are also less likely to have repeated a grade. We find no effects on the test scores or schooling attainment of African-American children. White children who attend Head Start are more likely to receive a measles shot, while African-American enrollees receive measles shots at an earlier age. African-American children who attend Head Start are also taller than their siblings. In a sample of the children's mothers, we find evidence that whites who attended Head Start as children are taller and have higher AFQT scores than their siblings who did not

Suggested Citation

  • Janet Currie & Duncan Thomas, 1993. "Does Head Start Make a Difference?," NBER Working Papers 4406, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4406
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. W. Steven Barnett, 1992. "Benefits of Compensatory Preschool Education," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 27(2), pages 279-312.
    2. Hardle, Wolfgang & Linton, Oliver, 1986. "Applied nonparametric methods," Handbook of Econometrics, in: R. F. Engle & D. McFadden (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 38, pages 2295-2339, Elsevier.
    3. Sonalde Desai & P. Chase-Lansdale & Robert Michael, 1989. "Mother or Market? Effects of Maternal Employment on the Intellectual Ability of 4-Year-Old Children," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 26(4), pages 545-561, November.
    4. Nelson, Charles R & Startz, Richard, 1990. "The Distribution of the Instrumental Variables Estimator and Its t-Ratio When the Instrument Is a Poor One," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63(1), pages 125-140, January.
    5. Hardle, Wolfgang & Linton, Oliver, 1986. "Applied nonparametric methods," Handbook of Econometrics, in: R. F. Engle & D. McFadden (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 38, pages 2295-2339, Elsevier.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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