A Head Start on Crime-fighting? The Effect of Access to Early Childhood Education

A Head Start on Fighting Crime (Full Paper)

Abstract: We provide the only large-scale evidence that early childhood education reduces later criminal behavior. To do so we leverage the county-level rollout of Head Start and administrative crime data containing the birth county of all individuals convicted of a crime in North Carolina. We find that the availability of a Head Start program reduces the likelihood of a serious criminal conviction by age 35 by 1.3 percentage points (6-9 percent) for children born into higher poverty counties. Given the high social costs of crime, the benefits  generated by Head Start’s later crime reduction exceeded the costs of the  program.