Does Head Start Improve Children's Life Chances? Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design

71 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2006 Last revised: 24 Jun 2010

See all articles by Jens Ludwig

Jens Ludwig

Georgetown University - Public Policy Institute (GPPI); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Douglas L. Miller

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 2005

Abstract

This paper exploits a new source of variation in Head Start funding to identify the program%u2019s effects on health and schooling. In 1965 the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) provided technical assistance to the 300 poorest counties in the U.S. to develop Head Start funding proposals. The result was a large and lasting discontinuity in Head Start funding rates at the OEO cutoff for grant-writing assistance, but no discontinuity in other forms of federal social spending. We find evidence of a large negative discontinuity at the OEO cutoff in mortality rates for children ages 5-9 from causes that could be affected by Head Start, but not for other mortality causes or birth cohorts that should not be affected by the program. We also find suggestive evidence for a positive effect of Head Start on educational attainment in both the 1990 Census, concentrated among those cohorts born late enough to have been exposed to the program, and among respondents in the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988.

Suggested Citation

Ludwig, Jens and Miller, Douglas L., Does Head Start Improve Children's Life Chances? Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design (October 2005). NBER Working Paper No. w11702. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=837146

Jens Ludwig (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - Public Policy Institute (GPPI) ( email )

3600 N Street, NW Suite 200
Washington, DC 20057
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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Germany

Douglas L. Miller

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics ( email )

One Shields Drive
Davis, CA 95616-8578
United States
530-752-8490 (Phone)

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