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School Starting Age and Cognitive Development

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  • Elizabeth Dhuey
  • David Figlio
  • Krzysztof Karbownik
  • Jeffrey Roth

Abstract

We present evidence of a positive relationship between school starting age and children's cognitive development from ages 6 to 18 using a fuzzy regression discontinuity design and large‐scale population‐level birth and school data from the state of Florida. We estimate effects of being old for grade (being born in September vs. August) that are remarkably stable—always around 0.2 SD difference in test scores—across a wide range of heterogeneous groups, based on maternal education, poverty at birth, race/ethnicity, birth weight, gestational age, and school quality. While the September‐August difference in kindergarten readiness is dramatically different by subgroup, by the time students take their first exams, the heterogeneity in estimated effects on test scores effectively disappears. We do, however, find significant heterogeneity in other outcome measures such as disability status and middle and high school course selections. We also document substantial variation in compensatory behaviors targeted towards young‐for‐grade children. While the more affluent families tend to redshirt their children, young‐for‐grade children from less affluent families are more likely to be retained in grades prior to testing. School district practices regarding retention and redshirting are correlated with improved outcomes for the groups less likely to use those remediation approaches (i.e., retention in the case of more affluent families and redshirting in the case of less affluent families.) Finally, we find that very few school policies or practices mitigate the test score advantage of September‐born children.

Suggested Citation

  • Elizabeth Dhuey & David Figlio & Krzysztof Karbownik & Jeffrey Roth, 2019. "School Starting Age and Cognitive Development," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 38(3), pages 538-578, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:38:y:2019:i:3:p:538-578
    DOI: 10.1002/pam.22135
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    Cited by:

    1. Görlitz, Katja & Penny, Merlin & Tamm, Marcus, 2019. "The Long-Term Effect of Age at School Entry on Competencies in Adulthood," IZA Discussion Papers 12157, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. David N. Figlio & Cassandra M.D. Hart & Krzysztof Karbownik, 2020. "Effects of Scaling Up Private School Choice Programs on Public School Students," NBER Working Papers 26758, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Berniell, Inés & Estrada, Ricardo, 2020. "Poor little children: The socioeconomic gap in parental responses to school disadvantage," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(C).
    4. Görlitz, Katja & Penny, Merlin & Tamm, Marcus, 2022. "The long-term effect of age at school entry on cognitive competencies in adulthood," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 194(C), pages 91-104.
    5. Pauline Givord, 2021. "How age at school entry affects future educational and socioemotional outcomes: Evidence from PISA," Sciences Po publications 120, Sciences Po.
    6. Jill Furzer & Elizabeth Dhuey & Audrey Laporte, 2022. "ADHD misdiagnosis: Causes and mitigators," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 31(9), pages 1926-1953, September.
    7. Attar, Itay & Cohen-Zada, Danny, 2018. "The effect of school entrance age on educational outcomes: Evidence using multiple cutoff dates and exact date of birth," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 153(C), pages 38-57.
    8. Goncalo Lima & Luis Catela Nunes & Ana Balcao Reis & Maria do Carmo Seabra, 2022. "No country for young kids? The effects of school starting age throughout childhood and beyond," Nova SBE Working Paper Series wp639, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Nova School of Business and Economics.
    9. Stephanie Coffey & Amy Ellen Schwartz, 2021. "Towering Intellects? Sizing Up the Relationship Between Height and Academic Success," Center for Policy Research Working Papers 244, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
    10. Tushar Bharati & Thea Harpley Green, 2021. "Age at school transition and children’s cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 21-06, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.
    11. Christopher Belfield & Imran Rasul, 2020. "Cognitive and Non‐Cognitive Impacts of High‐Ability Peers in Early Years," Fiscal Studies, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 41(1), pages 65-100, March.
    12. Balestra, Simone & Eugster, Beatrix & Liebert, Helge, 2017. "The Effect of School Starting Age on Special Needs Incidence and Child Development into Adolescence," CEPR Discussion Papers 12515, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    13. Peña, Pablo A. & Duckworth, Angela L., 2018. "The effects of relative and absolute age in the measurement of grit from 9th to 12th grade," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 183-190.
    14. Lopez-Agudo, Luis Alejandro & González-Betancor, Sara M. & Marcenaro-Gutierrez, Oscar David, 2021. "Language at home and academic performance: The case of Spain," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 16-33.
    15. Insu Chang & Heeran Park & Hosung Sohn, 2021. "Causal Impact of School Starting Age on the Tempo of Childbirths: Evidence from Working Mothers and School Entry Cutoff Using Exact Date of Birth," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 37(4), pages 997-1022, November.
    16. Sebastian Gallegos & Pablo Celhay, 2020. "Early Skill Effects on Types of Parental Investments and Long-Run Outcomes," Working Papers 2020-014, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    17. Goodman, Lucas, 2020. "Catching up or crowding out? The crowd-out effects of catch-up retirement contributions on non-retirement saving," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 188(C).
    18. Pauline GIVORD, 2020. "How age at entry at school affects future educational and socio-emotional outcomes: evidence from PISA," Working Papers 2020-27, Center for Research in Economics and Statistics.
    19. Krzysztof Karbownik & Umut Özek, 2019. "Setting a Good Example? Examining Sibling Spillovers in Educational Achievement Using a Regression Discontinuity Design," NBER Working Papers 26411, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Peña, Pablo A., 2020. "Relative age and investment in human capital," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 78(C).
    21. Pauline Givord, 2021. "How age at school entry affects future educational and socioemotional outcomes: Evidence from PISA," Post-Print hal-03386582, HAL.
    22. Philip J. Cook & Songman Kang, 2018. "The School-Entry-Age Rule Affects Redshirting Patterns and Resulting Disparities in Achievement," NBER Working Papers 24492, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    23. Beatton, Tony & Kidd, Michael & Niu, Anthony & Vella, Francis, 2021. "Age of Starting School, Academic Performance, and the Impact of Non-Compliance: An Experiment within an Experiment, Evidence from Australia," IZA Discussion Papers 14168, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    24. Cook, Philip J. & Kang, Songman, 2020. "Girls to the front: How redshirting and test-score gaps are affected by a change in the school-entry cut date," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 76(C).

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