Academic Redshirting

“Returns to Starting School Later: Academic Redshirting vs. Lucky Date of Birth” (Download Working Paper here); (submitted) 2018 January

Abstract: There are two main practices to delay school entry by a year: one is compliance with the school enrollment cutoff date, the other is the practice of postponing an age-eligible, but potentially non-school-ready child’s school entry—called academic redshirting. In this paper, I measure the causal impact of delayed school entry using Hungarian administrative and survey data for years 2008-2014. I exploit two discontinuity points in month of birth in an instrumental variable framework. The main institutional feature I exploit is a school-readiness evaluation, compulsory for potentially redshirted children born before January 1st. By comparing children born around January 1st, I measure the combined impact of age and boosted human capital due to academic redshirting. By comparing children born around the June 1st school enrollment cutoff date, I measure the sole age impact of starting school a year older due to this cutoff. I look at a rich set of long-term outcomes: mathematics and reading testscores at grades 6/8/10, grade repetition by grades 6/8/10, secondary school track choice and mental stability measures at grade 8. The main findings are: (1) although there are large gains for all children, disadvantaged boys benefit the most from delayed school entry; (2) the combined impact of age and boosted human capital is larger and longer-lasting on outcomes, where disadvantaged boys enjoy the largest gains; (3) the combined impact on mental health is positive only for disadvantaged boys. The results suggest that mental health is an important mechanism for disadvantaged boys: boosted human capital in the extra year before school leads to better mental health associated with better student achievement. This mechanism based on human capital is consistent with the finding that the positive effects of higher school entry age are driven by absolute age effects, rather than by within-class relative age effects.