Getting Ahead: The Statistical Relationship between Head Start and College Attendance
Dillon, Molly Danielle
Toppe, Christopher M
In 1965, Head Start was founded under President Johnson's War on Poverty to help provide low-income families with free early childhood education. While it began as a summer program, it has evolved into a preschool program. Now run by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the Department of Health and Human Services, since its inception Head Start has served nearly 30 million children. Research on the Head Start program has found significant gains in school readiness and educational abilities, however those gains tend to wear off in the early elementary years. Some have used this as an argument against the government program. Research also shows the importance of having a college education in today's modern workforce. This study therefore explores the relationship between participation in Head Start and college attendance. Without controlling properly for family background, we would be led to believe that Head Start has a significant and negative effect on the likelihood of college attendance. However, when we properly control for family background characteristics using a household level fixed effects model, we find that Head Start does not have a significant positive or negative effect on the likelihood of college attendance. The effects of Head Start coupled with rigorous and ongoing academic intervention programs should be explored in future research.
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