Within-Family Differences in Head Start Participation and Parent Investment Behavior
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Data for the present study come from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, and include 4,297 children and families where there were differences across siblings in the type of childcare used (Head Start, other center-based preschool, or home-based care), and where children were aged 3-4 between 1986 and 2002. The outcomes of interest include observer-collected and parent-reported measures of cognitive stimulation and emotional support provided by the child’s family from the Home Observation Measurement of the Environment (HOME) Inventory for ages 5 to 14.
This study builds on the literature using family fixed effects to estimate the causal impact of Head Start participation (e.g. Garces, Thomas and Currie, 2002). I use family fixed effects to compare levels of parental investment in education (cognitive stimulation and emotional support) throughout childhood (ages 5 to 14) for children who attended Head Start relative to their siblings who did not attend preschool. To account for differences in parental investment over the course of childhood, I compared levels of parental investment when siblings were the same age.
I find that parents compensate for within-family differences in Head Start attendance by providing lower levels of cognitive stimulation and emotional support to children who attended Head Start than to their siblings who did not attend preschool. Total HOME inventory scores for children who attended Head Start were 0.06 SD lower relative to their siblings. Children who attended Head Start received less emotional support from parents primarily during ages 5-6, and received less cognitive stimulation throughout childhood (ages 5-14).
These findings are consistent with the existing evidence on parental educational investment across siblings in response to differences in birth endowments. However, these results suggest that parent compensate not only for differences due to prenatal factors, but also differences in access to resources in early childhood.
Datar, A., Kilburn, M. R., & Loughran, D. S. (2010). Endowments and parental investments in infancy and early childhood. Demography, 47(1), 145-162.
Garces, E., Thomas, D., & Currie, J. (2002). Longer-Term Effects of Head Start. The American Economic Review, 92(4).