A new study currently undergoing peer review before publication shows benefits of Head Start carry over to the next generation of children. Researchers from Texas A&M University and Notre Dame University found that children whose parents participated in Head Start as youngsters were more likely to attend college and less likely to become teen parents or commit crime.
The study looked at data from some of the earliest Head Start students who attended the federally funded pre-kindergarten program for children from low-income homes when it launched in the 1960s. Specifically, they looked at children whose grandmothers did not graduate from high school and whose mothers lived in counties where Head Start initially rolled out and compared them to children whose mothers lived outside of those counties and didn’t have the option to attend the early childhood program.
They found that the second-generation children had a 12% higher high school graduation rate and 17% higher college attendance rate, almost 9% lower teenage parenthood rate and 15% less criminal activity compared to children whose parents did not attend Head Start.
Researchers say this indicates that investments in early childhood education can disrupt the intergenerational effect of poverty by increasing education and employment attainment levels and decreasing engagement in risky behavior.
They caution that Head Start has changed from its early days when it included comprehensive services for families, including health care and job training, so it’s unclear whether the same effects would be seen today because the program’s emphasis now is on preparing children for kindergarten.
Read EdWeek article for more information