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The Long‐term Effects of Early Track Choice

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  • Christian Dustmann
  • Patrick A. Puhani
  • Uta Schönberg

Abstract

Despite its efficiency in tailoring education to the needs of students, a tracking system has the inherent problem of misallocating students to tracks because of incomplete information at the time of the tracking decision. This paper investigates the effects of attending a more advanced track in middle school on long-term education and labor market outcomes for Germany, a country with a very rigorous tracking system where the risk of misallocating students to tracks is, due to the early age at which tracking takes place, particularly high. Our research design exploits quasi-random shifts between tracks induced by date of birth, and identifies the long-term effects of early track attendance for a group of marginal students most at risk of misallocation. Remarkably, we find no evidence that for these students, attending a more advanced track leads to more favorable long-term outcomes. We attribute this result to the up- and downgrading of students between tracks after middle school when more information about their potential is available. Overall, our findings underscore that flexibilities built into a tracking system, which allow students to revise initial track choices at a later stage, effectively remedy even a prolonged exposure to a less advanced school environment.
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Suggested Citation

  • Christian Dustmann & Patrick A. Puhani & Uta Schönberg, 2017. "The Long‐term Effects of Early Track Choice," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 127(603), pages 1348-1380, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:econjl:v:127:y:2017:i:603:p:1348-1380
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/ecoj.2017.127.issue-603
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General

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