A heads-up on Head Start

A new paper on Headstart, America’s biggest early childhood intervention program suggests that while it may not have the 7:1 benefit:cost ratios of super-intensive programs like Perry Preschool, its benefits still probably exceed its costs.

The Benefits and Costs of Head Start 
Jens Ludwig, Deborah A. Phillips 
In this essay we review what is known about Head Start and argue that the program is likely to generate benefits to participants and society as a whole that are large enough to justify the program’s costs. Our conclusions differ importantly from those offered in some previous reviews because we use a more appropriate standard to judge the success of Head Start (namely, benefit-cost analysis), draw on new accumulating evidence for Head Start’s long-term effects on early cohorts of program participants, and discuss why common interpretations of a recent randomized experimental evaluation of Head Start’s short-term impacts may be overly pessimistic.  While in principle there could be more beneficial ways of deploying Head Start resources, the benefits of such changes remain uncertain and there is some downside risk.

My mother, who worked as a Head Start teacher in upstate New York in the late-1960s, will be pleased by this.

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2 Responses to A heads-up on Head Start

  1. Daniel says:

    Can’t work out how to ‘track back’.

    But, I refer to your post here:


  2. Robinia says:

    Your Mom, and hundreds if not thousands of other former Head Start teachers, will indeed be pleased. What cost-benefit analysis can’t possibly quantify is the enormous satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that is nearly univeral among Head Start staffers. Despite miserable pay, and often uncertain funding from year to year, this is work that people LOVE to do. A society might take some note of that… it is surely something worth encouraging for social reasons, like art and music and literature.

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