IZA DP No. 9200: School Quality and the Development of Cognitive Skills between Age Four and Six
published in: PLOS ONE, 2015, 10(7)
This paper studies the extent to which young children develop their cognitive ability in high and low quality schools. We use a representative panel data set containing cognitive test scores of 4-6 year olds in Dutch schools. School quality is measured by the school's average achievement test score at age 12. Our results indicate that children in high-quality schools develop their skills substantially faster than those in low-quality schools. The results remain robust to the inclusion of initial ability, parental background, and neighborhood controls. Moreover, using proximity to higher-achieving schools as an instrument for school choice corroborates the results. The robustness of the results points toward a causal interpretation, although it is not possible to erase all doubt about unobserved confounding factors.