Trends in Head Start
From program year 2007–2008 to 2011–2012, the number of children from birth through age 3 enrolled in Early Head Start increased from 85,000 to 151,000. As a percentage of children in that age group living in poverty,1 this represents an increase from 2.4 to 3.8 percent. Enrollment dropped to 145,000 children in program year 2013–2014, but then rose to 211,000 in program year 2016–2017—a record high, representing 7 percent of children in poverty (Appendix 1).
From program year 2007–2008 to 2009–2010, Head Start enrollment increased from 976,000 to 984,000. However, as a proportion of the number of children ages 3 to 5 living in poverty, it represents a decline from 37 to 32 percent. With the exception of program year 2011–2012, program enrollment continued to fall in this period, to 848,000 in 2016–2017, a record low. Enrollment as a percentage of children in poverty, however, increased to 35 percent in 2016–2017, up from 31 percent in 2015–2016 (Appendix 2).
1. There are children enrolled in Head Start Programs who are not in poverty or for whom poverty status is not determined (including children in foster care, homeless children, and children in families receiving TANF or Supplemental Security Income). However, the number of children in poverty in a given year is a close approximation of eligible children.