The Effect of Relative School Starting Age on Having an Individualized Curriculum in Finland
Abstract: In Finland, a child in special education receives an individualized curriculum if standard support does not suffice. In this thesis, I study how relative school starting age affects the probability of having an individualized curriculum. Due to the cutoff date of school starting age, there is an age gap of roughly one year in each class. This difference in relative age can affect the individualization decisions through few possible mechanisms: difference in absolute age, peer effects, and the optimal school starting age. However, in this thesis, I cannot separate between different mechanisms of the effect. I use regression discontinuity design and individual level register data for middle school graduates from 1998-2014 to estimate the causal effect of relative school starting age. Relatively younger graduates are 1.4 percentage points more likely to have a partially individualized curriculum than graduates who are a year older. Respectively, older graduates are 1.8 percentage points more likely to have a regular curriculum. The results are robust and they hold for multiple specifications. I also find that the relative age effect is stronger for girls and students with lower educational background. Furthermore, when studying temporal variation of the effect, I observe a significant effect only from 2005 onwards. This may be partly explained by the curriculum reform in 2004. My research contributes to the areas of special education and relative age effect. The results are in line with prior literature of relative age.
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