Suburban legend: School cutoff dates and the timing of births
Many states require children to reach age 5 by a specified date in the calendar year in order to begin kindergarten. We use birth certificate records from 1999 to 2004 to assess whether parents systematically time childbirth before these eligibility cutoff dates to capture the option value of sending their child to school at a relatively young age, thereby avoiding a year of child care costs. Testing for discontinuities in the distribution of births around cutoff dates, we find no evidence that the option value influences the timing of birth. Similarly, we find no systematic discontinuities in average mothers' characteristics or babies' health outcomes around cutoff dates. Timing in the neighborhood of eligibility cutoffs occurs only when the cutoffs coincide with weekends or holidays, which may have implications for recent research that assumes birth dates in the neighborhood of cutoffs are essentially randomly assigned.
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