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Authors

Caputo

Abstract

This study assesses the effects of Head Start and other preschool programs on five life success measures in a U.S. cohort of youth (N = 5,621). The life success indices are average annual income-to-poverty ratios, economic mobility, and number of years the youth lived in families whose incomes fell below official poverty thresholds, received Food Stamps, and received TANF/AFDC. Controlling for a variety of background and other factors in separate regression models for each life success measure, results show that youth who participated in preschool programs other than Head Start had higher average annual income-to-poverty ratios than nonpreschoolers. Bivariate findings corroborate previous research indicating that Head Starters are economically and behaviorally disadvantaged compared to both other preschool and non-preschool children. Multivariate findings of this study also show that Head Starters do as well as nonpreschoolers in regard to the four other life success measures. In essence, on these measures Head Starters become mainstreamed by the time they enter the labor force, start their own families, and form their own households, such that they fare no better or worse than other preschoolers and nonpreschoolers in regard to economic mobility, years lived in poor families, and receipt of Food Stamps and TANF/AFDC. Findings support continued funding of Head Start but also suggest that higher levels of funding may be necessary to raise family incomes above poverty comparable to other preschool programs.

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