The study will be led by Pamela Morris, a professor in NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Applied Psychology and part of the university’s Institute for Human Development and Social Change. The project’s co-principal investigators are Howard Bloom, a chief social scientist at MDRC, a non-profit organization that researches policies aimed at low-income families, and Hirokazu Yoshikawa, academic dean at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
In conducting the study, the research team will ask several key questions pertaining to Head Start programs. These include whether Head Start impacts vary across sites and how features of Head Start centers and characteristics of families and communities are associated with this variation. The researchers will also investigate the mechanisms by which assignment to Head Start produced benefits to children’s developmental outcomes.
The researchers will examine data from the Head Start Impact Study (HSIS), which includes a nationally representative sample, follow-up information on children through early elementary school, and a range of outcomes—social-emotional, cognitive, and health—crucial to children’s development.
HSIS, originally conducted from 2002 to 2006, determined the average effect of Head Start services on children and their families. Under the ACF grant, the researchers will examine the HSIS data in greater detail in order to determine the impact of specific Head Start programs as well as to better understand its influence on specific populations.
“We still lack critical information about what differentiates Head Start programs that are highly effective from those that are less so and what can be done to make Head Start programs of the future more effective,” the researchers write. “We are also uncertain about whether there are some communities in which Head Start is particularly effective and whether Head Start impacts vary by characteristics of the children and families that attend the program.”
The study’s other researchers include: NYU Steinhardt Professors J. Lawrence Aber and C. Cybele Raver as well as Lindsay Page, senior research manager and lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
ACF is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.