Panel Paper: The Effects of Changes in School Entry Age and Duration on Student Performance: Evidence from Brazilian Primary Schooling Reform

Friday, March 9, 2018
Room 24 (Burkle Family Building at Claremont Graduate University)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Hanbyul Ryu, University of California, Riverside

Despite growing interest in the impact of altering school entry age and the duration of compulsory education, there have been very few opportunities to evaluate policies that mandate changes in these factors, particularly school entry age. We examine Brazil’s 2006 compulsory schooling reform, which increased the length of primary education by one year and lowered the minimum age of entry to primary school. We exploit the differences in the years that schools adopted this policy as a major source of variation and use students’ birth months to examine school entry age. Using school censuses and data from the national standardized exam (Prova Brasil), we find that the overall impact of the policy was that Portuguese and Mathematics test scores increased by approximately 0.1 standard deviations among 5th-year students. The impact faded out among 9th-year students, declining to approximately a 0.05 standard deviation increase in both subjects. We also examine the heterogenous impacts of the policy based on parental characteristics and prior education, describe different mechanisms through which the policy may have influenced students’ cognitive outcomes, and conduct various robustness checks to verify the paper’s interpretation.