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First Nationally Representative Study of Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Programs in 20 Years Offers a Treasure Trove of Data

Rockville, Md.  –  Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) programs provide 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, there’s an urgent need for an update on MSHS programs and centers, and the farmworker families they serve. 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.

To address this significant gap in knowledge, the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation in the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services hired Abt Global to design a nationally representative study. Data collection began in 2017 and included surveys, interviews, assessments and observations. The MSHS Study 2017 is the first such national study to include direct child assessments, which will provide valuable information to researchers and practitioners 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 response rates for all data collection activities were extremely high—averaging 90 percent across surveys interviews, assessments and observations.

The team used these  responses to produce a set of data tables that present descriptive findings about MSHS children, families and the programs that serve them. Results in the data tables can be used by practitioners and researchers to understand the characteristics of MSHS families and children, and the challenges and successes of operating MSHS programs.  

Abt also produced a set of data files for researchers who are interested in conducting further analyses. These files include all of the data collected in the study and will be archived with the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan.  Researchers and practitioners are encouraged to contact ICPSR and apply for restricted use of the datasets when they become available.

“The unique features of MSHS—particularly in terms of the varying schedules of centers as they open and close to accommodate the movement of families and children following agricultural work—made the design of this study a challenge,” said Linda Caswell, MSHS Study Director for Abt. “However, with the collaboration of the MSHS community, we were able to gather valuable data which can be used to update our understanding of the needs of these families and children.” 

Read more about the study.

About Abt Global
Abt Global is an engine for social impact, dedicated to moving people from vulnerability to security.  Harnessing the power of data and our experts’ insights, we provide research, consulting and technical services globally in the areas of health, environmental and social policy, technology and international development.

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