The Effect of Head Start on PPVT-R Scores: An Investigation into Racial Differences

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Economics | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Dan Finn, Economics


Head Start, an early childhood development program for disadvantaged youth, has been serving children and their families for over 30 years. In this time, a debate has continued as to whether the program has long-term beneficial results. Two leading researchers on Head Start, Currie and Thomas, claim only white children benefit from the program as indicated by higher test scores in elementary school. This paper challenges the idea that race is the main factor affecting success of children and instead suggests that a social characteristic highly correlated with race, like maternal education, is instead the true difference. In this study, children are grouped by levels of their mothers' education and intelligence; it is found through ordinary least squares regression that Head Start has a significant negative effect for children of mothers with more than a high school diploma and intelligence test scores between the 11th and 20th percentile and above the 50th percentile. It is suggested additional social variables should be investigated to better understand the factors influencing long-term effects of Head Start.