Economic Conditions of Head Start Families: Connections with Social Supports and Child and Family Well-Being

Economic Conditions of Head Start Families: Connections with Social Supports and Child and Family Well-Being

OPRE Report #2021-84
Published: Jul 16, 2021
Publisher: Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation
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Associated Project

Head Start: The Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES)

Time frame: 2006-2022

Prepared for:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation

Authors

Jeff Harrington

Judy Cannon

Key Findings
  • Over half (54 percent) of parents with children in Head Start report at least one material hardship (inability to pay for basic material needs), and almost as many (40 percent) report at least one financial strain (feeling like they cannot afford daily life or needs).
  • Parents in households above 130 percent of the federal poverty threshold are less likely to report at least one material hardship or financial strain than households near poverty or in poverty. Parents in households with two parents who work full-time are less likely to report at least one material hardship or financial strain than other parents.
  • Most parents report having access to social supports, but parents in households above the federal poverty threshold more often report the ability to obtain a loan from friends or family in an emergency. Parents with more social supports also report fewer material hardships and financial strains.
  • Parents with financial strains or material hardships have more depressive symptoms than parents without financial strains or material hardships.

This research brief uses nationally representative data from the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES 2019) to understand the prevalence of material hardships, financial strain, and social supports among parents with children in Head Start. It also examines whether these characteristics differ by key background characteristics. In this brief, we also discuss whether aspects of economic conditions are linked to child and family well-being and whether social supports help weaken such associations.

The purpose of this brief is to explore how families experience and perceive available resources and whether the measurement of constructs such as material hardship, financial strain, and social support provide better predictors of family and child well-being than measuring household income alone.

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