Making Up for an Unlucky Month of Birth in School: Causal Evidence on the Compensatory Advantage of Family Background in England

Fabrizio Bernardi, Michael Grätz

Sociological Science, May 6, 2015
DOI 10.15195/v2.a12

Previous research has shown that being born in the months immediately preceding the school entry cut-off date leads to lower educational outcomes in countries with a strict admission policy. In this article we use the effect of age at school entry in England as an identification device to provide a causal estimate of the compensatory advantage enjoyed by children from high social origin families. We find that the negative effects of a young school entry age are stronger for children from low social origin families. We also investigate when social origin differences in school entry age effects emerge, and test possible mechanisms. We find that before starting school, a younger school entry age leads to lower test scores for children of both low and highly educated families. For children from highly educated families the negative effect, however, progressively declines over the school career and almost vanishes by age 16. With respect to the mechanisms underlying this compensatory effect, we find no strong mediating role for parental involvement in homework and private lessons or for school choice.
Fabrizio Bernardi: European University Institute Department of Political and Social Sciences.  Email: fabrizio.bernardi@eui.eu

Michael Grätz: European University Institute Department of Political and Social Sciences.   Email: michael.gratz@eui.eu

  • Citation: Bernardi, Fabrizio and Michael Grätz. 2015. “Making Up for an Unlucky Month of Birth in School: Causal Evidence on the Compensatory Advantage of Family Background in England.” Sociological Science 2:235-251
  • Received: November 13, 2014
  • Accepted: January 21, 2015
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen,  Kim Weeden
  • DOI: 10.15195/v2.a12

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