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 StartÂ
Jens Ludwig, Deborah A. PhillipsÂ
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.Â 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.Â 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.