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Head Start is a comprehensive American preschool program for disadvantaged children. It offers a mix of educational, social, nutritional and health services to three- to five-year-olds and their low-income families to bring poor children up to the level of more advantaged children by the time they reach school entry.

Research shows that children attending the program enjoy very modest benefits including:

  • Short-term benefits: improved literacy skills; parents read to them more often.

  • Long-term benefits: increase in high school graduation and college attendance; fewer criminal charges or convictions; positive health and cognitive outcomes for children; improved parents’ health and safety. 

Policy makers need to consider these benefits in future decisions about the program and its funding.