Nikki Aikens is a principal researcher who specializes in descriptive and evaluation studies focused on young children, families, and the quality of early care and education programs, including Head Start, Early Head Start, and other child care settings.
Currently, Aikens serves as co-principal investigator for a Head Start study that seeks to strengthen outreach and engagement with families experiencing adversities that are often intertwined with poverty. As co-principal investigator for the national, multicohort Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES), she brings expertise on the engagement experiences and home environment resources of Head Start families. She has informed decisions regarding instrumentation for the Head Start FACES, Early Head Start Baby FACES, and Universal Preschool Child Outcomes studies, and she has contributed to data analysis and reporting for these and other early childhood studies.
Aikens’ work also includes evaluations of place-based initiatives and studies focused on supports for systems change. For example, she has held key roles on a synthesis identifying the characteristics of high-functioning collective impact systems and on the implementation and outcomes study of a two-generation, place-based nonprofit program. For over a decade, she directed the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) Longitudinal Study, which examined implementation and outcomes for children and families participating in HCZ’s early childhood, school-based, and postsecondary programs.
Aikens, who joined Mathematica in 2006, is a manuscript reviewer for Early Childhood Research Quarterly and Child Development and has served as a member of the Society for Research in Child Development Committee on Policy and Communications. She holds a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.