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New Study Points to the Lasting Benefits of Early Childhood Interventions

Feb 16, 2023    |   Research Updates for ECE Educators

For decades, research studies have provided evidence that quality preschool interventions can have a positive impact on educational attainment, labor market success, and other measures of health and well-being. Now, a 2022 study of Head Start shows that these benefits continue into the next generation, resulting in improved life outcomes for Head Start participants and for the children of Head Start participants.

The study, conducted by Chloe Gibbs, assistant professor of economics at the University of Notre Dame, and Andrew Barr, associate professor of economics at Texas A&M, appeared in the research report, Breaking the Cycle? Intergenerational Effects of an Anti-Poverty Program in Early Childhood, published in the Journal of Political Economy. According to Gibbs and Barr, “We demonstrate that our evidence, coupled with other work on the long-term effects of the Head Start program and the long-term and intergenerational effects of model preschool programs, reinforces the importance of early childhood investments for both those exposed to the programs and their children.”

The study analyzed medium-term benchmarks that might explain the intergenerational benefits of preschool programs like Head Start. The first of these was that parents who participated in Head Start as children were more likely to enroll their children in preschools. Home environment scores were also strong in households with parents who had attended Head Start, particularly for cognitive stimulation and emotional support subscores.  Additional benefits passed on to the children of Head Start participants included higher levels of self-esteem; increased educational attainment; and reductions in grade repetition, adolescent criminal engagement, and teen parenthood.

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