The Influence of Low-Income Children’s Participation in Head Start on Their Parents’ Education and Employment

Source: Terri J. Sabol and P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Volume 34 Issue 1, Winter 2015
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From the abstract:
Head Start is the oldest and largest federally funded preschool program in the United States. From its inception in 1965, Head Start not only provided early childhood education, care, and services for children, but also sought to promote parents’ success. However, almost all evaluation studies of Head Start have focused solely on children’s cognitive and social outcomes rather than on parents’ outcomes. The present study examines whether children’s participation in Head Start promotes parents’ educational advancement and employment. We use data from the Head Start Impact Study (HSIS), a randomized trial of over 4,000 newly entering three- and four-year-old children. We find that parents of children in the three-year-old cohort (but not the four-year-old cohort), who were randomly assigned to and participated in Head Start, had steeper increases in their own educational attainment by child age six years compared to parents of children in the control group. This pattern is especially strong for parents who had at least some college experience at baseline, as well as for African-American parents. We do not find evidence that Head Start helped parents enter or return to the workforce over time. Results are discussed in the context of using high-quality early childhood education as a platform for improving both child and parent outcomes.