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Identifying the drivers of month of birth differences in educational attainment

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  • Claire Crawford

    ()
    (Institute for Fiscal Studies)

  • Lorraine Dearden

    ()
    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and Department of Quantitative Social Science, Institute of Education, University of London)

  • Ellen Greaves

    ()
    (Institute for Fiscal Studies)

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    Abstract

    Children born at the end of the academic year have lower educational attainment, on average, than those born at the start of the academic year. Previous research shows that the difference is most pronounced early in pupils’ school lives, but remains evident and statistically significant in high-stakes exams taken at the end of compulsory schooling. To determine the most appropriate policy response, it is vital to understand which of the four possible factors (age at test, age of starting school, length of schooling and relative age without cohort) lead to these differences in attainment between those born at different points in the academic year. However, research to date has been unable to adequately address this problem, as the four potential drivers are all highly correlated with one another, and three of the four form an exact linear relationship (age at test = age of starting school + length of schooling). This paper is the first to apply the principle of maximum entropy to this problem. Using two complementary sources of data we find that a child’s age at the time they take the test is the most important driver of the differences observed, which suggests that age-adjusting national achievement test scores is likely to be the most appropriate policy response to ensure that children born towards the end of the year are not at a disadvantage simply because they are younger when they take their exams.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Department of Quantitative Social Science - Institute of Education, University of London in its series DoQSS Working Papers with number 13-07.

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    Date of creation: 13 May 2013
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    Handle: RePEc:qss:dqsswp:1307

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    Postal: Department of Quantitative Social Science. 20 Bedford Way London WC1H 0AL
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    Web page: http://www.ioe.ac.uk/research/departments/qss/35445.html
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    Related research

    Keywords: Age-period-cohort problem; maximum entropy; month of birth; relative age; educational attainment;

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    References

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    1. Hendrik Jürges & Kerstin Schneider, 2007. "What can go wrong will go wrong: Birthday effects and early tracking in the German school system," MEA discussion paper series 07138, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
    2. Sinn, Hans-Werner, 1980. "A Rehabilitation of the Principle of Insufficient Reason," Munich Reprints in Economics 19914, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    3. Patrick Puhani & Andrea Weber, 2007. "Does the early bird catch the worm?," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 32(2), pages 359-386, May.
    4. Kawaguchi, Daiji, 2011. "Actual age at school entry, educational outcomes, and earnings," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 64-80, June.
    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).
    6. Justin Smith, 2010. "How Valuable Is the Gift of Time? The Factors That Drive the Birth Date Effect in Education," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 5(3), pages 247-277, July.
    7. Todd E. Elder & Darren H. Lubotsky, 2009. "Kindergarten Entrance Age and Children’s Achievement: Impacts of State Policies, Family Background, and Peers," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(3).
    8. Datar, Ashlesha, 2006. "Does delaying kindergarten entrance give children a head start?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 43-62, February.
    9. Michela Ponzo & Vincenzo Scoppa, 2011. "The Long-Lasting Effects Of School Entry Age: Evidence From Italian Students," Working Papers 201101, Università della Calabria, Dipartimento di Economia, Statistica e Finanza (Ex Dipartimento di Economia e Statistica).
    10. Patrick J. McEwan & Joseph S. Shapiro, 2008. "The Benefits of Delayed Primary School Enrollment: Discontinuity Estimates Using Exact Birth Dates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(1).
    11. Andrea M. Mühlenweg & Patrick A. Puhani, 2010. "The Evolution of the School-Entry Age Effect in a School Tracking System," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 45(2).
    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. Dionissi Aliprantis, 2012. "When should children start school?," Working Paper 1126, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
    14. Kelly Bedard & Elizabeth Dhuey, 2006. "The Persistence of Early Childhood Maturity: International Evidence of Long-Run Age Effects," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(4), pages 1437-1472, November.
    15. Maresa Sprietsma, 2010. "Effect of relative age in the first grade of primary school on long-term scholastic results: international comparative evidence using PISA 2003," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(1), pages 1-32.
    16. Smith Justin, 2009. "Can Regression Discontinuity Help Answer an Age-Old Question in Education? The Effect of Age on Elementary and Secondary School Achievement," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 9(1), pages 1-30, November.
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