Promoting Parents’ Social Capital to Increase Children’s Attendance in Head Start: Evidence from an Experimental Intervention

Improving children’s attendance is a high priority for Head Start and other early childhood education programs serving low-income children. We conducted a randomized control trial in a major northern city to evaluate the impact of a low-cost intervention designed to promote parents’ social capital as a potential influence on children’s attendance in Head Start centers. The intervention did lead to increased attendance during the winter when average center attendance was lowest. There were no impacts on fall or spring attendance. Follow-up exploratory analyses of focus groups with parents and staff suggested that parents’ level of connection and trust, self-generated partnership strategies, and commitment to their children’s education may be factors by which parents’ social capital expands and children’s attendance improves.

December 2014