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Head Start Program Facts: Fiscal Year 2017

Established in 1965, Head Start promotes school readiness for children in low-income families by offering educational, nutritional, health, social, and other services. Since its inception, Head Start has served more than 35 million children, birth to age 5, and their families. In 2017, Head Start was funded to serve nearly 1 million children and pregnant women in centers, family homes, and in family child care homes in urban, suburban, and rural communities throughout the nation.

For term definitions and fact sheets from other years, see Head Start Program Annual Fact Sheets.

Download the PDF version.

Federal Appropriations

The Congress of the United States authorizes the amount of federal spending for Head Start each year. The Head Start program is administered by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Federal grants are awarded directly to public agencies, private nonprofit and for-profit organizations, tribal governments, and school systems for operating Head Start programs in local communities.

Activity Amount
Head Start Program, incl. Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships $8,875,646,195
Training and Technical Assistance $223,705,793
Research, Demonstration, and Evaluation $21,936,864
Monitoring Support $41,816,347
Program Support $36,510,058
Designation Renewal System (DRS) Transitions Support $24,922,242
Total $9,224,537,499

Annual Federal Funding and Funded Enrollment by State

The Head Start program serves children, families, and pregnant women in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and six territories. The table in this section presents the total actual funding awarded and funded enrollment of Head Start programs in each state and territory.

American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) funding is awarded to AIAN tribal governments. AIAN programs operate in 26 states, and in some cases their services cross state lines. Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) funding and funded enrollment are shown as one total, as this program supports children and families who receive services in various states during the year. Thus, federal funding and funded enrollment for these services cannot simply be attributed to individual states.

Annual Federal Funding and Funded Enrollment
  Head Start (excl. AIAN) AIAN1
State/Territory Federal Funding Funded Enrollment Federal Funding Funded Enrollment
Alabama $139,559,876 15,631    
Alaska $16,520,308 1,506 $26,845,416 1,845
Arizona $147,668,314 13,581 $40,606,985 3,939
Arkansas $90,071,346 9,983    
California $1,141,493,769 92,687 $10,834,158 831
Colorado $100,896,672 10,190 $2,489,164 183
Connecticut $65,149,906 6,140    
Delaware $18,981,888 2,194    
District of Columbia $31,039,253 3,533    
Florida $366,644,876 39,697    
Georgia $229,928,415 24,597    
Hawaii $28,202,845 2,950    
Idaho $32,293,169 2,986 $3,823,120 319
Illinois $353,165,142 39,133    
Indiana $134,560,221 14,203    
Iowa $67,089,324 7,449    
Kansas $69,953,550 7,412 $1,668,908 109
Kentucky $151,698,092 15,984    
Louisiana $182,861,782 21,147    
Maine $36,450,715 3,098 $809,872 60
Maryland $99,919,960 10,069    
Massachusetts $139,818,066 12,008    
Michigan $313,862,640 30,248 $7,077,751 598
Minnesota $100,504,174 11,338 $12,563,619 1,009
Mississippi $200,857,179 23,902 $2,202,100 268
Missouri $162,556,555 14,997    
Montana $31,167,253 3,079 $17,080,549 1,790
Nebraska $49,547,684 4,829 $4,642,384 330
Nevada $37,053,862 3,096 $3,832,290 362
New Hampshire $18,311,447 1,563    
New Jersey $167,287,070 15,943    
New Mexico $67,976,241 7,512 $17,704,472 1,713
New York $549,935,156 50,432 $1,271,558 143
North Carolina $204,907,482 21,403 $2,766,454 230
North Dakota $22,032,234 1,988 $10,204,063 983
Ohio $331,997,649 35,365    
Oklahoma $115,335,976 14,409 $29,373,619 3,075
Oregon $88,884,019 12,913 $4,135,369 408
Pennsylvania $305,318,439 35,866    
Rhode Island $29,737,698 2,781    
South Carolina $113,725,844 12,604 $924,667 80
South Dakota $24,713,597 2,764 $19,342,076 1,806
Tennessee $157,404,163 17,260    
Texas $623,119,626 72,402 $431,549 34
Utah $59,919,954 5,715 $1,851,511 215
Vermont $19,123,591 1,473    
Virginia $133,468,488 14,264    
Washington $142,530,419 11,962 $17,376,824 1,451
West Virginia $65,472,936 7,947    
Wisconsin $127,252,828 13,820 $11,101,386 1,032
Wyoming $17,533,594 1,590 $2,775,936 295
American Samoa $3,669,962 1,332    
Guam $2,989,632 534    
No. Marianas $3,220,853 526    
Palau $1,685,246 350    
Puerto Rico $293,708,647 32,223    
Virgin Islands $9,891,940 1,014    
Subtotal: $8,240,671,567 845,622 $253,735,800  23,108
MSHS $383,009,323 30,644    
Funding $8,877,416,690
Enrollment 899,374

Program Year Statistics

Each year, Head Start programs are required to submit Program Information Reports (PIR) on the services they have provided to children and families throughout the program year, including child, family, and staff demographics and program characteristics.
For a copy of the PIR form, detailed reports, and data sets for the 2017 PIR and prior years, and for further information, please visit: http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/pir

Program Characteristics:

  • Thirty-three percent of grantees operated Head Start preschool services only.
  • Twenty-five percent of grantees operated Early Head Start (EHS) services only.
  • Forty-two percent of grantees operated both Head Start and Early Head Start services.

Most Head Start preschool services were provided in center-based settings that, based on local design, vary in the number of days per week and hours per day classes are in session. Over half of EHS services were provided in center-based settings, and less than half were offered in home-based program settings.

Pie chart - Head Start Preschool Program Options


Pie chart - Early Head Start Program Options

Child and Family Demographics:

Head Start programs cumulatively served 1,070,000 children ages birth to 5 and pregnant women throughout the 2016–2017 program year.

Pie chart - Cumulative Enrollment by Age

Head Start served a diverse group of children, families, and pregnant women. Thirty-seven percent identified themselves as Hispanic/Latino, and 29 percent were Black/African-American.

Families were asked to self-identify both an ethnicity and a race category based on U.S. Census Bureau measures. For example, a family that identifies their child as Black and Cuban was counted in the "Black or African-American" race category for the race question and counted in the "Hispanic or Latino" category for the separate question on ethnicity.

Twenty-nine percent of participants were from families that primarily spoke a language other than English at home. Approximately 23 percent of participants were from families that primarily spoke Spanish at home.

Pie chart - Race


Pie chart - Ethnicity

Services to Children and Families:

Head Start programs work with families to help ensure children have access to needed services and resources. The number of children who received immunizations increased from the beginning of the program year to the end of the program year. Also, more families had health insurance and medical and dental homes for their children at the end of the 2016–17 program year than at the beginning.

Graph - Children's Health Measures

Head Start programs work with families to ensure they have the means to obtain health insurance, services for children with disabilities, adequate housing, job training, and more. In fiscal year 2017:

  • Most children had public health insurance. At the end of the program year, 90 percent of children were enrolled in Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or a state-funded child health insurance program.
  • Thirteen percent of Head Start cumulative enrollment was made up of children with disabilities, defined as children having special plans under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In comparison, nationally, about three percent of infants and toddlers and six percent of preschool-age children have identified disabilities. Head Start serves a greater percentage of children with disabilities than found in the overall population.
  • Among pregnant women enrolled in EHS, approximately 87 percent received prenatal education on fetal development and 21 percent had medically high risk pregnancies.
  • Head Start served about 974,000 families cumulatively throughout the program year. The number of families served is less than the number of participants served, since some families have more than one child enrolled.
  • Approximately 49,000 families served during the enrollment year experienced homelessness. Of those families, 34 percent found housing during the program year. Approximately 71,000 Head Start families received housing assistance, such as subsidies, utilities, and repairs.
  • Approximately 163,000 families, or 17 percent, received services related to job training and adult education, such as general equivalency diploma (GED) programs and college selection.

Program Staff:

Head Start programs employed and contracted with 259,000 staff. Parents of current or former Head Start children made up 23 percent of Head Start staff.

  • More than one million adults volunteered in their local Head Start program. Of these, 770,000 were parents of Head Start children.
  • About 127,000 staff members provided child development services to children, including teachers, assistant teachers, home visitors, and family child care providers.
  • Among child development staff, 30 percent were proficient in a language other than English.
  • Seventy-three percent of all Head Start center-based preschool teachers had a baccalaureate degree or higher in early childhood education, or in a related field with experience. The Head Start Act specifies that 50 percent of center-based preschool teachers nationwide should have had these credentials by 2013.
Graph - Center-Based Preschool Teacher Degrees


1AIAN funding is awarded to American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes. For reference, the funding and enrollment has been split out by the state in which the Tribe is headquartered. Some Tribes serve children across state lines.