Panel: Impacts of Two-Generation Publicly Funded Preschool Programs on the Outcomes of Low-Income Parents and Their Children
(Family and Child Policy)

Thursday, November 8, 2018: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Wilson A - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Chairs:  Anna Johnson, Georgetown University
Discussants:  JoAnn Hsueh, MDRC

The “Longer” Term Effects of a Two-Generation Human Capital Program on Parents and Children in Head Start
P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale1, Terri J. Sabol1, Teresa Eckrich Sommer1, Elise Chor1, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn2, Hirokazu Yoshikawa3, Christopher King4 and Amanda Morris5, (1)Northwestern University, (2)Columbia University, (3)New York University, (4)University of Texas, Austin, (5)Oklahoma State University

The federal government makes two substantial investments in the early care and education of low-income preschool-aged children in the U.S. – the Head Start program, and the federal child care subsidy program; both programs are means-tested, targeting households with incomes at or just above the poverty line. Much of the evidence evaluating impacts of these programs has focused on children, with less attention paid to low-income, program-eligible parents. Yet there are compelling reasons to suspect that these programs also foster parental outcomes, such as employment, parenting practices, and educational attainment. For instance, the Head Start program includes explicit parent engagement and outreach components designed to improve parenting practices, and the child care subsidy program extends parental time and resources to pursue increased education by reducing the cost of non-parental child care. To date, however, these theories have not been rigorously tested. The proposed panel addresses previously unanswered questions around how publicly-funded preschool programs can increase low-income mothers’ human capital, enhance parenting practices, and place disadvantaged families on a pathway out of poverty.

The first paper (presented by Dr. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, Northwestern University) uses quasi-experimental methods to test the effects of a two-generation program administered through Head Start; CareerAdvance® pairs a training program in the healthcare sector for Head Start parents, with Head Start early education services for children in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The authors find that, after one year of Head Start CareerAdvance® program participation, parents demonstrated increased rates of healthcare sector certification and employment, and improved job satisfaction and mental health.

The second paper (presented by Ms. Christina Padilla, Georgetown University) exploits the random assignment and multi-site design of the Head Start Impact Study to quantify heterogeneity in program impacts on parents’ cognitive stimulation of and socioemotional interactions with their children, and to investigate whether programs higher in parent engagement (and classroom quality) improve parenting practices more effectively. Findings reveal significant variation in program impacts across a range of parenting behaviors, such as reading time and discipline, after one year of Head Start.

The third paper (presented by Mr. Owen Schochet, Georgetown University), extends current evidence finding that subsidy receipt boosts mothers’ educational attainment by estimating associations between child care subsidy-eligible mothers’ education increases and their children’s preschool- and kindergarten-year cognitive and social outcomes. Results from national data (the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort) suggest that among subsidy-eligible families, improvements to mothers’ education boosts low-income children’s math, language/literacy, and health outcomes at preschool and kindergarten entry.

These 3 papers will be discussed by Dr. JoAnn Hsueh, the Deputy Director of MDRC’s Family Well-Being and Children’s Development Policy Area.  Dr. Hsueh is a national expert who has been deeply engaged in rigorous evaluations of two-generational programs supporting parents’ employment and education services. She is extremely well-suited to lead a discussion about the federal programs under study in this panel, in addition to expertly evaluating the data and methods used by the authors.

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