Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Head Start: Another Failed Government Program

Rigorous studies of government programs are rare, but sometimes they happen.

A key requirement is that there be both an “experimental” group, that gets the “treatment” of the program, and a “control” group that doesn’t.

And the two groups have to be comparable. The one and only sure way of making them comparable is to randomly assign subjects to the experimental and the control groups.

This was done in a study of the federal Head Start program, and a definitive evaluation was recently released. Released, we might note, after much delay.

You’ll shortly be able to figure out the reason for the delay.

These studies get pretty long and elaborate, but they usually have an Executive Summary giving the bottom line on the findings. Here is the bottom line on Head Start:
In summary, there were initial positive impacts from having access to Head Start, but by the end of 3rd grade there were very few impacts found for either cohort in any of the four domains of cognitive, social-emotional, health and parenting practices. The few impacts that were found did not show a clear pattern of favorable or unfavorable impacts for children.
It’s common for any government program to be promoted as “for the children.” But to be “for the children,” it has to really help children.

If it doesn’t, it’s merely for the politicians and bureaucrats.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You recently told you students, including my roommate and verified by others in the class, that Keynesian economists have been predicting that deficits would lead to higher interest rates and inflation. In fact, this is the opposite of what Keynesians have been predicting, but it is precisely the argument made by mainstream conservative economists as well as Austrian economists.
To get something so basic to the current economic debate this wrong is hilarious, given the way you like to think of yourself as a hard-nosed policy wonk who understands the market. Please tell me the four students who heard you say this are all mistaken. If they were not, please refrain from making one claim of expertise on markets.

2:34 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

Anonymous,

What is said was that massive deficits of the magnitude we have been having (big during the Bush years and massive during the Obama years) should lead to very low unemployment, but very high inflation, if Keynesian is correct.

I know some economists (Paul Krugman comes to mind) claim we should have had even bigger deficits.

So what I actually said was that Keynesianism would predict what I said it would.

But by any historic standard, the deficits we have had are huge, and should have over-stimulated the economy.

When people start fiddling with a theory to avoid having it falsified, you should turn skeptical. What I was talking about is what Keynesian said for decades after Keynes.

4:23 PM  

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