ATLANTA—Head Start programs are highly concentrated in low-income and rural areas of Georgia, providing vital access to early education and supporting at least $71 million in total economic output there, according to a new study by Georgia State University’s Center for State and Local Finance.
The analysis found that in many rural, low-income Georgia counties more than half of centers serving 3- and 4-year-olds receive Head Start funds, and that some of the highest amounts of per-child funding are in these same rural areas of the state.
Nicholas Warner, who specializes in education finance for the Center for State and Local Finance, authored the report, analyzing the impact of the funds across the 16 regional education service areas, or RESAs, as defined by the Georgia Department of Education.
Four regions with low median incomes — Oconee, Chattahoochee-Flint, Southwest Georgia and Heart of Georgia — received more than $540 per child under the age of 5 in 2015. Together, these four areas received $47 million in direct Head Start funding, which supported $71 million in economic output.
“For the most impoverished areas of the state, these funds are an important factor in economic growth, supporting jobs and wages and fueling spending in the Head Start centers and many other local businesses as well,” Warner said.
Across Georgia, Head Start supports about $415 million in economic activity. Though this is a mere one percent of total statewide output, the funding “is not inconsequential to areas directly supported by the program,” the study notes.
In many cases, Head Start provides a majority of the access to early childhood education. In middle and southwest Georgia, for example, at least 25 percent of child care centers receive Head Start funding.
Although Warner’s study does not quantify the possible long-term impacts, such as improved learning outcomes or higher lifetime salaries, the study shows Head Start is making positive strides toward its goal to help young children in low-income families.
“If education is to be the ‘great equalizer,’ then these results are encouraging,” Warner said. “Access to early education in Georgia is taking place where it’s needed the most.”
Download the study at: https://cslf.gsu.edu/download/economic-impact-of-head-start-in-georgia/.
Research Associate II
Center for State and Local Finance
Nicholas Warner, a research associate at the Center for State and Local Finance and Fiscal Research Center at Georgia State University, specializes in education finance. His recent research has focused on school district expenditure and revenue portfolio analysis, tax expenditure estimation, examination of Georgia’s special option sales tax for school facility funding, and school districts’ responses to the Great Recession. His work has been published in the Journal of Education Finance as well as by the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning. Warner received his master’s degree in economics from the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.