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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. Joshua Angrist & Alan Krueger, 1990. "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?," Working Papers 653, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  2. Elizabeth Cascio, 2005. "School Progression and the Grade Distribution of Students: Evidence from the Current Population Survey," Working Papers 56, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
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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. 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.
  2. Bauer, Philipp C. & Riphahn, Regina T., 2013. "Institutional determinants of intergenerational education transmission — Comparing alternative mechanisms for natives and immigrants," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(C), pages 110-122.
  3. Jones, Sam, 2013. "Class size versus class composition: What matters for learning in East Africa?," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Dong, Yingying, 2010. "Kept back to get ahead? Kindergarten retention and academic performance," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 219-236, February.
  7. 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.
  8. Dionissi Aliprantis, 2012. "When should children start school?," Working Paper 1126, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  9. Thomas, Jaime L., 2012. "Combination classes and educational achievement," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 1058-1066.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Elizabeth Cascio, 2008. "How and why does age at kindergarten entry matter?," FRBSF Economic Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue aug8.
  14. 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).

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