Head Start Program Facts
Fiscal Year 2012

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 30 million children, birth to age 5, and their families. In 2012, Head Start was funded to serve nearly one million children and pregnant women in centers, family homes, and in family child care homes in urban, suburban, and rural communities throughout the nation. (More on Head Start)

See PDF version: Head Start Program Facts Fiscal Year 2012 [PDF, 442KB]


Throughout this Fact Sheet, unless otherwise specified, the term "Head Start" refers to the Head Start program as a whole, including: Head Start services to preschool children; Early Head Start services to infants, toddlers, and pregnant women; services to families by American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) programs; and services to families by Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) programs.

The term "funded enrollment" refers to the number of children and pregnant women that are supported by federal Head Start funds in a program at any one time during the program year; these are sometimes referred to as enrollment slots. Funded enrollment numbers include enrollment slots funded by state or other funds when used by grantees as required nonfederal match. States may provide additional funding to local Head Start programs which is not included in federal Head Start reporting.

The term "cumulative enrollment" refers to the actual number of children and pregnant women that Head Start programs serve throughout the entire program year, inclusive of enrollees who left during the program year and the enrollees who filled those empty places. Due to turnover, more children and families may receive Head Start services cumulatively throughout the program year, all of whom are reported in the Program Information Report (PIR), than indicated by the funded enrollment numbers.

Federal Funding

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 Office of Head Start (OHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Federal grants are awarded directly to public agencies, private non-profit and for profit organizations, tribal governments, and school systems for the purpose of operating Head Start programs in local communities.

Head Start Federal Funding
Local Head Start Projects Appropriation
States and Territories $7,132,202,000
American Indian and Alaska Native, and
Migrant and Seasonal Programs
Subtotal $7,682,420,000
Support Activities  
Training and Technical Assistance $199,213,000
Research, Demonstration, and Evaluation $19,962,000
Monitoring and Program Review $41,921,000
Program Support $25,028,000
Subtotal $286,124,000
TOTAL1 $7,968,544,000

1The total above represents the funding available to the Head Start program after a rescission. The initial appropriation was $7,983,633,000.

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 allocations and funded enrollment of Head Start programs in each state and territory.

American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) funding is awarded to American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments. AIAN programs operate in 26 states, and in some cases their services cross state lines. Migrant and Seasonal Head Start 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.

Federal Funding and Funded Enrollment by State
by State/Territory
by State/Territory
for AIAN1
for AIAN1
Alabama $125,717,736 17,301    
Alaska $14,373,541 1,761 $20,079,615 1,645
Arizona $121,746,967 14,137 $44,089,841 5,866
Arkansas $75,176,442 10,814    
California $957,971,585 104,950 $7,910,270 632
Colorado $80,798,717 10,624 $2,302,126 191
Connecticut $58,755,649 7,357    
Delaware $15,341,871 2,209    
District of Columbia $27,867,030 3,328    
Florida $313,310,850 38,304    
Georgia $198,596,452 25,112    
Hawaii $25,594,284 3,187    
Idaho $27,252,585 3,135 $3,534,547 325
Illinois $314,325,492 41,644    
Indiana $115,222,711 15,515    
Iowa $59,267,964 8,133    
Kansas $59,800,770 8,751 $1,072,632 84
Kentucky $125,505,972 16,938    
Louisiana $167,980,835 22,054    
Maine $31,534,389 3,536 $743,898 60
Maryland $89,394,017 10,885    
Massachusetts $122,724,674 13,295    
Michigan $267,668,992 35,961 $6,873,702 610
Minnesota $83,787,316 11,410 $10,468,877 949
Mississippi $180,315,944 27,323 $2,209,241 276
Missouri $138,965,174 18,186    
Montana $23,985,541 3,071 $15,162,080 1,709
Nebraska $42,187,836 5,452 $1,934,560 226
Nevada $29,960,223 3,100 $3,503,807 362
New Hampshire $15,540,919 1,764    
New Jersey $149,580,131 15,661    
New Mexico $62,550,656 7,839 $16,643,144 1,739
New York $493,984,026 51,696 $1,287,788 143
North Carolina $171,736,149 20,484 $2,775,426 246
North Dakota $20,059,789 2,498 $9,936,185 1,000
Ohio $286,668,880 39,106    
Oklahoma $97,666,553 13,925 $23,345,013 2,848
Oregon $70,304,700 12,502 $3,623,067 380
Pennsylvania $261,801,900 36,955    
Rhode Island $25,043,856 2,966    
South Carolina $99,208,187 13,225 $927,666 80
South Dakota $21,605,345 2,987 $15,947,595 1,690
Tennessee $137,123,145 17,323    
Texas $559,620,987 71,963 $432,949 34
Utah $45,113,078 6,117 $1,857,516 215
Vermont $15,143,423 1,562    
Virginia $115,286,747 14,462    
Washington $117,458,766 12,404 $14,132,725 1,415
West Virginia $58,201,030 8,075    
Wisconsin $105,184,250 14,407 $10,311,767 1,058
Wyoming $13,438,273 1,824 $2,784,939 295
Subtotal States:
$6,837,452,349 857,218    
Indian Tribes:
    $223,890,976 24,078
Migrant Programs $326,375,159 34,583  
American Samoa $2,265,358 1,332  
Guam $2,479,936 534  
No. Marianas $1,753,383 462  
Palau $1,404,891 509  
Puerto Rico $278,051,317 36,767  
Virgin Islands $9,424,359 1,014  
TOTAL $7,683,097,728 956,497  

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.

Program Year Statistics

Each year, Head Start programs are required to submit Program Information Reports (PIRs) 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 2012 PIR and prior years, and for further information, please visit: http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/pir.

Program Characteristics:

  • 43 percent of grantees operated Head Start preschool services only
  • 13 percent of grantees operated Early Head Start (EHS) services only
  • 45 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. About half of EHS services were provided in center-based settings, and half were offered in home-based program settings.

Pie chart of program options


Child and Family Demographics:

Head Start programs cumulatively served 1,142,000 children ages birth to 5 and pregnant women throughout the 2011-2012 program year.

Pie chart for cumulative Enrollment by age 2011

Head Start served a diverse group of children, families, and pregnant women. Nearly 40 percent identified themselves as Hispanic/Latino, and almost 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.

2011 race statistical data

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

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 2011-12 program year than at the beginning.

2011 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 FY 2012:

  • Most children had public health insurance. At the end of the program year, 87 percent of children were enrolled in Medicaid, CHIP, or a state funded child health insurance program.
  • Twelve 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, 93 percent received prenatal education on fetal development and 21 percent had medically high risk pregnancies.
  • Head Start served about 1,045,000 families cumulatively throughout the program year. The number of families served is a little less than the number of participants served, since some families have more than one child enrolled.
  • Over 49,000 families served during the enrollment year experienced homelessness. Of those families, 36 percent found housing during the program year. Over 130,000 Head Start families received housing assistance such as subsidies, utilities, and repairs.
  • Over 271,000 families, or 26 percent, received services related to job training and adult education.

Program Staff:

Head Start programs employed and contracted with 245,000 staff. Parents of current or former Head Start children made up 25 percent of Head Start staff.

  • More than 1.3 million adults volunteered in their local Head Start program. Of these, 867,000 were parents of Head Start children.
  • About 123,000 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.
  • Sixty-two 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 these credentials by 2013.
Chart for 2011 Center-Based Preschool Teachers' Degrees

Head Start Federal Funding and Funded Enrollment History

The graphs and tables below depict the last 40 years of Head Start federal funding and funded enrollment history.

Line graph of 40 years of Head Start Appropriations Line graph for 40 years of Head Start enrollment

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), enacted in February 2009, appropriated $2.1 billion to the Head Start program and was available for obligation over a two-year period. These funds are displayed on the graph in green. ARRA funds supported a variety of activities, including but not limited to: a cost-of-living adjustment, quality improvement, and an expansion of Head Start and Early Head Start enrollment by 61,000 children, families, and pregnant women. This enrollment increase is also displayed on the graph in green. The funding was primarily for one-time purposes, but Congress provided funding in subsequent appropriations to continue a portion of the funding spent on a cost-of-living adjustment. Additionally, all of the funding necessary to sustain the expansion of Head Start and Early Head Start services to 61,000 additional funded enrollment slots for children, families, and pregnant women was appropriated across fiscal years 2011 and 2012.

Head Start Enrollment and Appropriations History

Year Federal
1965 (summer only) $96,400,000 561,000
1966 198,900,000 733,000
1967 349,200,000 681,400
1968 316,200,000 693,900
1969 333,900,000 663,600
1970 325,700,000 477,400
1971 360,000,000 397,500
1972 376,300,000 379,000
1973 400,700,000 379,000
1974 403,900,000 352,800
1975 403,900,000 349,000
1976 441,000,000 349,000
1977 475,000,000 333,000
1978 625,000,000 391,400
1979 680,000,000 387,500
1980 735,000,000 376,300
1981 818,700,000 387,300
1982 911,700,000 395,800
1983 912,000,000 414,950
1984 995,750,000 442,140
1985 1,075,059,000 452,080
1986 1,040,315,000 451,732
1987 1,130,542,000 446,523
1988 1,206,324,000 448,464
1989 1,235,000,000 450,970
1990 1,552,000,000 540,930
1991 1,951,800,000 583,471
1992 2,201,800,000 621,078
1993 2,776,286,000 713,903
1994 3,325,728,000 740,493
Year Federal
1995 3,534,128,000 750,696
1996 3,569,329,000 752,077
1997 3,980,546,000 793,809
1998 4,347,433,000 822,316
1999 4,658,151,000 826,016
2000 5,267,000,000 857,664
2001 6,199,123,000 905,235
2002 6,536,570,000 912,345
2003 6,667,533,000 909,608
2004 6,774,848,000 905,851
2005 6,843,114,000 906,993
2006 6,872,062,000 909,201
2007 6,888,571,000 908,412
2008 6,877,975,000 906,992
2009 7,112,786,000 904,153
      Recovery Act      2,100,000,000 61,078
2010 7,234,783,000  904,118
2011  7,559,634,000 964,430
2012 7,968,544,000 956,497

Last Reviewed: February 2017

Last Updated: February 8, 2017