August 2017

IZA DP No. 10949: Date of Birth and Selective Schooling

forthcoming in: Scottish Journal of Political Economy (New title: Date of birth and selective schooling: some lessons from the 1944 education reforms in England and Wales)

We examine the effects of date of birth on state selective education using the 1944 Education Act in England and Wales as a natural experiment. We compare the probabilities of gaining selective school entry – which in our study period meant attending a grammar school – before and after the Act using a difference-in-difference approach. Before 1944, grammar school entry was achieved either noncompetitively through fee-paying or free based on a competitive 11+ exam. After 1944, all children were required to take a competitive 11+ exam and about one-third gained a grammar school place. Pre-1944 we find the children born in the middle or late in the school year (January to August) fared significantly worse in gaining a grammar school place than those born at the beginning of the school year (from September to December). Post-1944, the prospects of grammar school entry among children born in the middle of the school year (January to April) improved considerably. We argue that a greater recourse to age standardisation of 11+ test scores may well have accounted for this outcome. The youngest 'summer children' (those born at the end of the school year from May to August) remained significantly disadvantaged, however. A strong influence was the practice of streaming (or tracking) junior school children at age 7 into classes delineated by average ability.