Early Childhood Initiative Lecture

Reducing Inequality Through Dynamic Complementarity: Evidence from Head Start and Public School Spending

September 8, 2017
3:00 PM-4:30 PM

Rucker C. Johnson will use the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to compare the adult outcomes for children who were differentially exposed to policy-induced changes in pre-school spending (Head Start) and school-finance-reform-induced changes in public K12 school spending. Difference-in-difference instrumental variables and sibling-difference estimates indicate that, for poor children, increases in Head Start spending and increases in public K12 spending each individually increased educational attainment and earnings and reduced the likelihood of both poverty and incarceration in adulthood. The benefits of Head Start spending were larger when followed by access to better-funded public K12 schools, and the increases in K12 spending were more efficacious for poor children who were exposed to higher levels of Head Start spending during their preschool years. The findings suggest that early investments in the skills of disadvantaged children that are followed by sustained educational investments over time can effectively break the cycle of poverty.

Johnson is an associate professor in the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a faculty research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Johnson received the prestigious Andrew Carnegie Fellowship prize for his scholarship. As a labor and health economist, his work considers the role of poverty and inequality in affecting life chances. He has focused on such topics as the long-run impacts of school quality on educational attainment and socioeconomic success, including the effects of desegregation, school finance reform, and Head Start.  Johnson has investigated the determinants of intergenerational mobility; the societal consequences of incarceration; effects of maternal employment patterns on child well-being; and the socioeconomic determinants of health disparities over the life course, including the roles of childhood neighborhood conditions and residential segregation.

Please join us for a reception after the talk.