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The Lengthening of Childhood

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  • David Deming
  • Susan Dynarski

Abstract

Over the past 40 years, the age at which children enter first grade has slowly drifted upward. In the fall of 1968, 96 percent of six-year-old children were enrolled in first grade or above. By 2005, the proportion had dropped to 84 percent, mainly because a substantial share of six-year-olds were still in kindergarten. About a third of the increase in age at school entry can be explained by legal changes. Almost every state has increased the age at which children are allowed to start primary school. The other two-thirds of the increase in the age at school entry reflects the individual decisions of parents and teachers who choose to keep children out of kindergarten or first grade even when they are legally eligible to attend. This practice is sometimes called "red-shirting," a phrase originally used to describe the practice of holding college athletes out of play until they have grown larger and stronger. Red-shirting is referred to as "the gift of time" in education circles, reflecting a perception that children who have been allowed to mature for another year will benefit more from their schooling. As we will discuss, little evidence supports this perception. It is indeed true that in any grade, older children tend to perform better academically than the younger children. In the early grades there is a strong, positive relationship between a child's age in months and his performance relative to his peers. But there is little evidence that being older than your classmates has any long-term, positive effect on adult outcomes such as IQ, earnings, or educational attainment. By contrast, there is substantial evidence that entering school later reduces educational attainment (by increasing high school dropout rates) and depresses lifetime earnings (by delaying entry into the labor market).

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 22 (2008)
Issue (Month): 3 (Summer)
Pages: 71-92

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:22:y:2008:i:3:p:71-92

Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.22.3.71
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References

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  1. Oreopoulos, Philip, 2007. "Do dropouts drop out too soon? Wealth, health and happiness from compulsory schooling," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 91(11-12), pages 2213-2229, December.
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Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Red-shirting the first grade, a good idea?
    by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2008-10-17 01:18:00
Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
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Cited by:
  1. Philipp C. Bauer & Regina T. Riphahn, 2012. "Institutional Determinants of Intergenerational Education Transmission - Comparing Alternative Mechanisms for Natives and Immigrants," CESifo Working Paper Series 3987, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Philip J. Cook & Songman Kang, 2013. "Birthdays, Schooling, and Crime: New Evidence on the Dropout-Crime Nexus," NBER Working Papers 18791, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Patricia M. Anderson & Kristin F. Butcher & Elizabeth U. Cascio & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, 2011. "Is Being in School Better? The Impact of School on Children's BMI When Starting Age is Endogenous," NBER Working Papers 16673, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Victor Lavy & M. Daniele Paserman & Analia Schlosser, 2008. "Inside the Black of Box of Ability Peer Effects: Evidence from Variation in the Proportion of Low Achievers in the Classroom," NBER Working Papers 14415, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Thomas, Jaime L., 2012. "Combination classes and educational achievement," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 1058-1066.
  6. Jones, Sam, 2013. "Class size versus class composition: What matters for learning in East Africa?," Working Paper Series, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER) UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  7. Dionissi Aliprantis, 2012. "When should children start school?," Working Paper 1126, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  8. Elizabeth Cascio, 2008. "How and why does age at kindergarten entry matter?," FRBSF Economic Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue aug8.
  9. Dong, Yingying, 2010. "Kept back to get ahead? Kindergarten retention and academic performance," European Economic Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 219-236, February.
  10. Dickert-Conlin, Stacy & Elder, Todd, 2010. "Suburban legend: School cutoff dates and the timing of births," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 29(5), pages 826-841, October.
  11. Robertson, Erin, 2011. "The effects of quarter of birth on academic outcomes at the elementary school level," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 300-311, April.
  12. Gindling, T. H. & Poggio, Sara Z., 2010. "The Effect of Family Separation and Reunification on the Educational Success of Immigrant Children in the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 4887, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  13. Kevin Lang & Rashmi Barua, 2010. "School Entry, Educational Attainment and Quarter of Birth: A Cautionary Tale of LATE," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series, Boston University - Department of Economics WP2010-019, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  14. Edwards, Ben & Fiorini, Mario & Stevens, Katrien & Taylor, Matthew, 2013. "Is Monotonicity in an IV and RD design testable? No, but you can still check it," Working Papers 2013-06, University of Sydney, School of Economics.

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