The Benefits And Costs Of Head Start.

February 2007

Jens Ludwig, Georgetown University, and Deborah A. Phillips, Georgetown University.

Download 'working_paper07-09.pdf'.


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 programís 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 Startís long-term effects on early cohorts of program participants, and discuss why common interpretations of a recent randomized experimental evaluation of Head Startís 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.

Child Well-being and Child Development, Education and Training Programs