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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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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.22.3.71
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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. Patrick Puhani & Andrea Weber, 2007. "Does the early bird catch the worm?," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 32(2), pages 359-386, May.
  2. James J. Heckman & Paul A. LaFontaine, 2007. "The American High School Graduation Rate: Trends and Levels," NBER Working Papers 13670, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2007. "Marriage and divorce: changes and their driving forces," Working Paper Series 2007-03, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  4. James J. Heckman & Dimitriy V. Masterov, 2007. "The Productivity Argument for Investing in Young Children," NBER Working Papers 13016, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Black, Sandra E. & Devereux, Paul J. & Salvanes, Kjell G., 2008. "Too Young to Leave the Nest? The Effects of School Starting Age," IZA Discussion Papers 3452, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  12. Thomas S. Dee, 2003. "Are There Civic Returns to Education?," NBER Working Papers 9588, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Fredriksson, Peter & Öckert, Björn, 2006. "Is early learning really more productive? The effect of school starting age on school and labor market performance," Working Paper Series 2006:12, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
  14. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 2000. "Dropout and Enrollment Trends in the Post-War Period: What Went Wrong in the 1970s?," NBER Working Papers 7658, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  19. Datar, Ashlesha, 2006. "Does delaying kindergarten entrance give children a head start?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 43-62, February.
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Citations

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. Anderson, Patricia M. & Butcher, Kristin F. & Cascio, Elizabeth U. & Schanzenbach, Diane Whitmore, 2011. "Is being in school better? The impact of school on children's BMI when starting age is endogenous," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 977-986.
  2. Thomas, Jaime L., 2012. "Combination classes and educational achievement," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 1058-1066.
  3. 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.
  4. Dionissi Aliprantis, 2012. "When should children start school?," Working Paper 1126, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  5. 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.
  6. Elizabeth Cascio, 2008. "How and why does age at kindergarten entry matter?," FRBSF Economic Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue aug8.
  7. Dong, Yingying, 2010. "Kept back to get ahead? Kindergarten retention and academic performance," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 219-236, February.
  8. Rashmi Barua & Kevin Lang, 2009. "School Entry, Educational Attainment and Quarter of Birth: A Cautionary Tale of LATE," NBER Working Papers 15236, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Robertson, Erin, 2011. "The effects of quarter of birth on academic outcomes at the elementary school level," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 300-311, April.
  10. Dickert-Conlin, Stacy & Elder, Todd, 2010. "Suburban legend: School cutoff dates and the timing of births," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(5), pages 826-841, October.
  11. 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).
  12. 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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