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Early tracking and the misfortune of being young

  • Nicole Schneeweis
  • Martina Zweimüller

In the Austrian (as well as the German) education system students have to choose between different school tracks at the age of 10. We argue that early tracking creates inefficiencies because the earlier the track choice has to be made, the more it is influenced by factors other than innate ability. Recent evidence suggests that the relative age of a student within a grade is related to his or her achievement, and that this effect is decreasing over grades. Thus, age-related achievement differences probably translate into age-related differences in track choice if track choice has to be made early. In this paper we estimate the effect of observed age on the track choice after grade 4 using register data for a major Austrian city for the period 1984-2006. Since observed age at track choice is endogenous, we exploit the exogenous variation in birth month to identify the causal effect of age. We find a strong and sig- nificant positive effect of age on track choice in grades 5-8. Since after grade 8, students again have to make a track choice, we use additional data from PISA 2003 and 2006 to show that the effect is long-lasting in urban areas. Therefore, the education system fails to provide a mechanism that leads to an efficient allocation of students to tracks.

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File URL: http://www.econ.jku.at/papers/2009/wp0911.pdf
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Paper provided by Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria in its series Economics working papers with number 2009-11.

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Length: 24 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:jku:econwp:2009_11
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Web page: http://www.econ.jku.at/
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  1. Bauer, Philipp & Riphahn, Regina T., 2006. "Timing of school tracking as a determinant of intergenerational transmission of education," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 91(1), pages 90-97, April.
  2. Ammermüller, Andreas & Pischke, Jörn-Steffen, 2006. "Peer Effects in European Primary Schools: Evidence from PIRLS," IZA Discussion Papers 2077, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Schneeweis, Nicole & Winter-Ebmer, Rudolf, 2005. "Peer Effects in Austrian Schools," Economics Series 170, Institute for Advanced Studies.
  4. 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).
  5. Eric A. Hanushek & John F. Kain & Jacob M. Markman & Steven G. Rivkin, 2001. "Does Peer Ability Affect Student Achievement?," NBER Working Papers 8502, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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).
  7. Hanushek, Eric A. & Wößmann, Ludger, 2006. "Does educational tracking affect performance and inequality? differences-in-differences evidence across countries," Munich Reprints in Economics 20457, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  8. Tuomas Pekkarinen & Roope Uusitalo & Sari Kerr, 2009. "School tracking and development of cognitive skills," Working Papers 2, Government Institute for Economic Research Finland (VATT).
  9. Manning, Alan & Pischke, Jörn-Steffen, 2006. "Comprehensive versus Selective Schooling in England in Wales: What Do We Know?," IZA Discussion Papers 2072, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  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. Patrick Puhani & Andrea Weber, 2007. "Does the early bird catch the worm?," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 32(2), pages 359-386, May.
  12. Esther Duflo & Pascaline Dupas & Michael Kremer, 2008. "Peer Effects, Teacher Incentives, and the Impact of Tracking: Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation in Kenya," NBER Working Papers 14475, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Fertig, Michael & Kluve, Jochen, 2005. "The Effect of Age at School Entry on Educational Attainment in Germany," IZA Discussion Papers 1507, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  14. Costas Meghir & Mårten Palme, 2005. "Educational Reform, Ability, and Family Background," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 414-424, March.
  15. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2008. "Too Young to Leave the Nest: The Effects of School Starting Age," NBER Working Papers 13969, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Ammermüller, Andreas, 2005. "Educational Opportunities and the Role of Institutions," ZEW Discussion Papers 05-44, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  17. Pekkarinen, Tuomas & Uusitalo, Roope & Kerr, Sari, 2009. "School tracking and intergenerational income mobility: Evidence from the Finnish comprehensive school reform," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(7-8), pages 965-973, August.
  18. Hendrik Jürges & Kerstin Schneider, 2007. "What Can Go Wrong Will Go Wrong: Birthday Effects and Early Tracking in the German School System," CESifo Working Paper Series 2055, CESifo Group Munich.
  19. Kasey S. Buckles & Daniel M. Hungerman, 2013. "Season of Birth and Later Outcomes: Old Questions, New Answers," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(3), pages 711-724, July.
  20. 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.
  21. Giorgio Brunello & Daniele Checchi, 2007. "Does school tracking affect equality of opportunity? New international evidence," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 22, pages 781-861, October.
  22. Scott E. Carrell & Mark L. Hoekstra, 2010. "Externalities in the Classroom: How Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Affect Everyone's Kids," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 211-28, January.
  23. Galindo-Rueda, Fernando & Vignoles, Anna, 2004. "The Heterogeneous Effect of Selection in Secondary Schools: Understanding the Changing Role of Ability," IZA Discussion Papers 1245, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  24. Pekkarinen, Tuomas, 2005. "Gender Differences in Educational Attainment: Evidence on the Role of the Tracking Age from a Finnish Quasi-Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 1897, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  25. Brunello, Giorgio & Giannini, Massimo & Ariga, Kenn, 2004. "The Optimal Timing of School Tracking," IZA Discussion Papers 995, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  26. Christian Dustmann, 2004. "Parental background, secondary school track choice, and wages," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 56(2), pages 209-230, April.
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