NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Benefits and Costs of Head Start

Jens Ludwig, Deborah A. Phillips

NBER Working Paper No. 12973
Issued in March 2007
NBER Program(s):   CH

In this essay we review what is known about Head Start and argue that the program is likely to generate benefits to participants and society as a whole that are large enough to justify the program's costs. Our conclusions differ importantly from those offered in some previous reviews because we use a more appropriate standard to judge the success of Head Start (namely, benefit-cost analysis), draw on new accumulating evidence for Head Start's long-term effects on early cohorts of program participants, and discuss why common interpretations of a recent randomized experimental evaluation of Head Start's short-term impacts may be overly pessimistic. While in principle there could be more beneficial ways of deploying Head Start resources, the benefits of such changes remain uncertain and there is some downside risk.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12973

Published: Ludwig, Jens and Deborah A. Phillips (2007) “The Benefits and Costs of Head Start.” Society for Research on Child Development, Social Policy Report. Volume XXI, Number 3.

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