Descriptive Data on Head Start Children and Families from FACES 2019: Fall 2019 Data Tables and Study Design

Publication Date: July 16, 2021
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  • Published: 2021


The Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES) is the premier source of national information about Head Start programs and participants. For more than two decades, FACES has been advancing the knowledge base about what matters in providing quality early care and education. Data from the study respond to current policy questions and support programs and practitioners working with Head Start families.

This report includes key information on the FACES 2019 study design. The tables in this report describe the children enrolled in Head Start programs in fall 2019 and their family backgrounds and home environments.


The purpose of this report is to (1) provide information about the FACES study, including the background, design, methodology, assessments, and analytic methods; and (2) report detailed descriptive statistics (averages, response ranges, and percentages) and related standard errors (the estimate of the standard deviation of each statistic) in a series of tables on children and their families. The report provides a national picture of the children and families attending Head Start in fall 2019.

Key Findings and Highlights

For children’s characteristics, family backgrounds, and home environments, the tables show:

  • Demographic characteristics (for example, age, race/ethnicity, language(s) spoken in the home, who lives in the household)
  • Participation in an Early Head Start program serving infants and toddlers and continuity in the current Head Start setting
  • Parents’ reasons for choosing Head Start for child care
  • Parents’ education and employment status
  • Family economic well-being (how the household is doing financially: for example, household income as a percentage of federal poverty threshold; financial strain; food security; family housing, utility, and medical hardships; and sources of public assistance)
  • Parents’ total depressive symptoms (such as feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or restlessness) scores
  • Parents’ social supports
  • Housing status
  • Activities families do with children, how often parents and children read books together, and household bedtime and dinner routines
  • Children’s access to health care providers and medical and dental care

For children’s cognitive and social-emotional skills and physical health and disability status, the tables show:

  • Reliability of direct assessments (tests conducted with children) that measure children’s language (English and Spanish receptive vocabulary [words a child understands], English expressive vocabulary [words a child can say], conceptual expressive vocabulary [words a child can say in either English or Spanish]), literacy (letter-word knowledge, early writing skills), and math skills
  • Language used to conduct direct assessment of children
  • Children’s language, literacy, and math skills
  • Reliability of items that measure children’s social skills, problem behaviors (such as aggression and hyperactivity), and approaches to learning (such as attention and persistence)
  • Children’s executive function (self-regulation skills), social skills, problem behaviors, and approaches to learning
  • Teacher reports of children’s disability status and type, and Individualized Education Program/Individual Family Service Plan status
  • Parent reports of children’s health status
  • Children’s height, weight, and body mass index

The tables provide this information for all Head Start children. For some characteristics, the tables also provide the information by age, Head Start exposure (those who newly entered Head Start versus those returning for a second year), income as a percentage of federal poverty threshold, parents’ employment status, or language in which the direct assessment was conducted.


The FACES sample provides information at the national level about Head Start programs, centers, classrooms, and the children and families they serve. We selected a sample of Head Start programs from the 2017—2018 Head Start Program Information Report. The sample included two centers per program and two classrooms per center. Within each classroom, we randomly selected 12 children for the study.

In total, 59 programs, 115 centers, 221 classrooms, and 2,260 children participated in the study in fall 2019. The tables provide information from parent surveys, Teacher Child Reports, and direct assessments. We weight the data to represent all Head Start children in fall of the program year (and not just the ones from whom we collected data).


Kopack Klein, Ashley, Nikki Aikens, Ann Li, Sara Bernstein, Natalie Reid, Myley Dang, Elizabeth Blesson, Sharika Rakibullah, Myah Scott, Judy Cannon, Jeff Harrington, Addison Larson, Lizabeth Malone, and Louisa Tarullo (2021). Descriptive Data on Head Start Children and Families from FACES 2019: Fall 2019 Data Tables and Study Design, OPRE Report 2021-77, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey
Head Start exposure:
Length of time in the program, specifically whether children are newly entering Head Start for the first time or returning for a second year.
Head Start Program Information Report (PIR):
The PIR provides data on the services, staff, children, and families served by Head Start programs. All grantees and delegates must submit a PIR annually.