You may have missed it in August but the Brooking Institute released important findings and conclusions about the Head Start program with, The Long-Term Impact of the Head Start Program.

In the past some critics of Head Start have argued that the benefits of Head Start “fade-out” as the child moves further into grade school and away from their Head Start participation.  In this paper the authors conducted an economic analysis that showed long term impacts including impacts into high school and improved health outcomes.

The key findings highlighted by the paper:

  • Head Start improves educational outcomes— increasing the probability that participants graduate from high school, attend college, and receive a post-secondary degree, license, or certification.


  • Head Start results in social, emotional, and behavioral developments that become evident in adulthood including measures of self-control, self-esteem, and positive parenting practices.


  • Head Start participation increased positive parenting practices for ethnic groups and for participants whose mothers did not have a high school degree compared with the outcomes of children who went to other preschool programs.

The study used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), a multiple-generation longitudinal survey with data on a wide range of important developmental, economic, and social topics.

In addition to the study’s examination of child and student impact the authors examined the impact on parenting effects years after their children participated in Head Start.  The authors indicate that,

“Head Start causes participants to invest more in their own children years after their participation in the program.”

The study provides an important perspective for the future Congress and next Administration that are likely to address the reauthorization of Head Start.  The report concludes with,

We find that Head Start not only enhances eventual educational attainment, but also has a lasting positive impact on behavioral outcomes including self-control and self-esteem. Furthermore, it improves parenting practices—potentially providing additional benefits to the next generation.”