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Migrant Seasonal Head Start Study


  • Updated information about MSHS programs, families and children was urgently needed.
  • Abt used surveys, interviews, assessments and observations to gather information from across the country.
  • Stakeholders have an up-to-date, nationally representative picture of the families and children served by MSHS programs.
The Challenge

Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) provides early childhood education, social and support services to culturally and linguistically diverse migrant and seasonal farmworker families and their children. Since the last nationally representative study of MSHS was conducted almost 20 years ago, an update on MSHS programs and centers and the migrant and seasonal farmworker families they serve was needed. Significant changes in migration patterns, immigration policies and climate conditions may be affecting these children and families in as yet unknown ways, and the MSHS program may have to adapt to their changing needs.

The Approach

Abt designed a nationally representative study and collected data through surveys, interviews, assessments and observations to provide updated national estimates for MSHS programs, centers, staff, families, and children. The MSHS Study is the first such national study to include direct child assessments, which will provide valuable information about MSHS children that can inform program, center, and classroom practices. The study benefited from close collaboration with the MSHS community, which provided input to the study team on study design, recruitment and data collection.

The Results

The report presents descriptive findings about MSHS children, families and the programs that serve them. The response rates for all data collection activities were extremely high—averaging 90 percent across surveys interviews, assessments and observations. Results highlight characteristics of MSHS families and children, and describe the challenges and successes of operating MSHS programs. Data files are archived with the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan ( We encourage researchers who are interested in conducting further analyses to contact ICPSR and apply for use of the data files.

Data tables and brief

Cultural Items and Language Use Checklist