Suburban Legend: School Cutoff Dates and the Timing of Births

42 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2009

See all articles by Stacy Dickert-Conlin

Stacy Dickert-Conlin

Syracuse University - Center for Policy Research

Todd E. Elder

Michigan State University

Date Written: February 2009

Abstract

Many states require children to reach five years of age by a specified calendar date in order to begin kindergarten. We use birth certificate records from 1999 to 2004 to assess whether parents systematically time childbirth before school cutoff dates to capture the option value of sending their child to school at a relatively young age, thereby avoiding a year of child care costs. Testing for discontinuities in the distribution of births around cutoff dates, we find no evidence that the financial benefits influence the timing of birth. Similarly, we find no systematic discontinuities in average mothers' characteristics or babies' health outcomes around cutoff dates. Timing in the neighborhood of school cutoffs occurs only when the cutoffs coincide with weekends or holidays, which may have implications for recent research that assumes birth dates in the neighborhood of cutoffs are essentially randomly assigned.

Keywords: Kindergarten cutoff, regression discontinuity, birth timing

JEL Classification: H70, I21, J13

Suggested Citation

Dickert-Conlin, Stacy and Elder, Todd E., Suburban Legend: School Cutoff Dates and the Timing of Births (February 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1342520 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1342520

Stacy Dickert-Conlin

Syracuse University - Center for Policy Research ( email )

Syracuse, NY 13244
United States
315-443-3232 (Phone)
315-443-1081 (Fax)

Todd E. Elder (Contact Author)

Michigan State University ( email )

110 Marshall-Adams Hall
Department of Economics
East Lansing, MI 48824
United States
517-355-0353 (Phone)

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