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The Impact of Changes in Kindergarten Entrance Age Policies on Children’s Academic Achievement and the Child Care Needs of Families

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Publication Date: September 2003

Publisher(s): Pardee Rand Graduate School

Author(s): Ashlesha Datar

Topic: Education (Education policy and planning)

Type: Report


The past two decades have seen a rising trend in the minimum entrance age for kindergarten in the United States, motivated by findings from studies finding that older entrants perform better than younger entrants on a wide range of outcomes. Delaying kindergarten entrance, however, imposes additional childcare and time costs on families whose children are forced to stay out of school for another year. This dissertation provides new evidence on the causal effect of delaying kindergarten entrance on children’s academic achievement in elementary school. The author finds that, compared to other educational interventions, a one-year delay in kindergarten entrance has a positive and significant effect on children’s test scores both when they begin school and at the end of two years in school. Although the initial entrance-age effect is smaller among poor and disabled children compared with that for non-poor and non-disabled children. delaying entrance has a sizable effect on test score gains over time for poor and disabled children but a negligible effect on gains for non-poor and non-disabled children. The author also developed an economic model for parents’ kindergarten entrance age decisions and examined the effect of socioeconomic factors on these decisions. Higher childcare prices and maternal wages significantly lower the age at which parents desire to send their child to kindergarten.