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The Gift of Time? School Starting Age and Mental Health

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  • Thomas S. Dee
  • Hans Henrik Sievertsen

Abstract

In many developed countries, children now begin their formal schooling at an older age. However, a growing body of empirical studies provides little evidence that such schooling delays improve educational and economic outcomes. This study presents new evidence on whether school starting age influences student outcomes by relying on linked Danish survey and register data that include several distinct, widely used, and validated measures of mental health that are reported out-of-school among similarly aged children. We estimate the causal effects of delayed school enrollment using a "fuzzy" regression-discontinuity design based on exact dates of birth and the fact that, in Denmark, children typically enroll in school during the calendar year in which they turn six. We find that a one-year delay in the start of school dramatically reduces inattention/hyperactivity at age 7 (effect size = -0.7), a measure of self regulation with strong negative links to student achievement. We also find that this large and targeted effect persists at age 11. However, the estimated effects of school starting age on other mental-health constructs, which have weaker links to subsequent student achievement, are smaller and less persistent.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas S. Dee & Hans Henrik Sievertsen, 2015. "The Gift of Time? School Starting Age and Mental Health," NBER Working Papers 21610, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21610
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    7. Leuven, Edwin & Lindahl, Mikael & Oosterbeek, Hessel & Webbink, Dinand, 2010. "Expanding schooling opportunities for 4-year-olds," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 319-328, June.
    8. Blake, Peter R. & Piovesan, Marco & Montinari, Natalia & Warneken, Felix & Gino, Francesca, 2015. "Prosocial norms in the classroom: The role of self-regulation in following norms of giving," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 18-29.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ballatore, Rosario Maria & Paccagnella, Marco & Tonello, Marco, 2017. "Bullied because younger than my mates? The effect of age rank on victimization at school," GLO Discussion Paper Series 116, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    2. Tukiainen, Janne & Takalo, Tuomas & Hulkkonen, Topi, 2017. "Gender Specific Relative Age Effects in Politics and Football," Working Papers 94, VATT Institute for Economic Research.
    3. Brenoe, Anne Ardila & Lundberg, Shelly, 2016. "Gender Gaps in the Effects of Childhood Family Environment: Do They Persist into Adulthood?," IZA Discussion Papers 10313, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Kaestner, Robert, 2016. "Do `Skills Beget Skills'? Evidence on the effect of kindergarten entrance age on the evolution of cognitive and non-cognitive skill gaps in childhoodAuthor-Name: Lubotsky, Darren," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 194-206.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education

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