Panel Paper: The Intergenerational Effects of Head Start

Friday, November 9, 2018
8206 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Esra Kose, Bucknell University

The intergenerational mobility and persistence of poverty have been important in policy considerations. The contributors of the intergenerational impacts are not fully understood beyond the links through parental education, job loss, and neighborhood in which children grew up. This paper analyzes the impact of maternal access to early childhood program on infant health at birth using the roll-out of the Head Start program in the 1966 to 1970. Head Start has been in place for more than 50 years and has shown to be effective in improving long-term education, health and labor market outcomes of early participants.

I find that mother’s access to Head Start increases average birth weight and reduces fraction low birth weight for both white and black infants, with larger impacts on blacks. My findings show that maternal early childhood education is associated with the probability of a new mother is more educated, reduces number of births, reduces smoking and drinking during pregnancy. These results suggest that the estimates of the returns to Head Start may significantly understate the total return.

My findings contribute to the literature on intergenerational effects of parental experience in early childhood. I show that Head Start generates intergenerational health effects for infants. Importantly, the Head Start program provides context on understanding one of the contributors to the intergenerational effects on health. In the 1960s, several social programs began as a part of the “War on Poverty” initiative. Future research could examine how much collectively access to government programs contribute to the intergenerational mobility.