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First in the Class? Age and the Education Production Function (WP-15-28)

Elizabeth Cascio and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

Cascio and Schanzenbach estimate the effects of having older peers using data from an experiment where children of the same age were randomly assigned to different kindergarten classrooms. Exploiting this experimental variation in conjunction with variation in expected kindergarten entry age to account for negative selection of some of the older school entrants, they find that exposure to older kindergarten classmates increases test scores up to eight years after kindergarten and may reduce the incidence of grade retention and increase the probability of taking a college-entry exam. These findings are consistent with broader peer effects literature documenting positive spillovers from having higher-scoring peers and suggest that, holding constant own age, being old relative to one’s peers is not beneficial.

Elizabeth Cascio, Associate Professor of Economics, Dartmouth College

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Associate Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

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