Martha Bailey, University of Michigan

"Prep School for Poor Kids: The Long-Run Impacts of Head Start on Human Capital and Economic Selfsufficiency"


This paper evaluates the long-run effects of Head Start on human capital in large-scale, linked administrative data. Our research design exploits the county-level rollout of Head Start between 1965 and 1980 together with program eligibility captured by state-level school-entry age cutoffs. Using the restricted 2000-2013 Census/ACS linked to the Numident, we find that children induced to participate in Head Start achieved 0.29 more years of education, reflecting a 2.1-percent increase in high school completion, an 8.7- percent increase in college enrollment, and 18.5-percent increase in college completion. Consistent with the program benefitting lower income children, participation in Head Start decreased adult poverty by 12 percent and the receipt of public-program income by 29 percent. Our estimates are smaller in magnitude than those reported in other studies, but nevertheless imply substantial returns to investing in large-scale, publicly funded preschool programs.

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