Ainhoa Aparicio Fenoll (Collegio Carlo Alberto)
"Do parents know their children's ability? Evidence from parental choice of school starting age"
Parental ability to make optimal decisions about their children's education depend on whether parents are aware of the ability of their children. We investigate whether this is the case by means of a quasi-natural experiment: in Italy parents can choose to send their children to primary school one year earlier only for children born between January and April. This decision is similar to choosing a demanding school or a high level program in that it should be made for high ability children. We exploit data on standardized test scores in Italian language and mathematics given to all students at different grades. We find that even though children who start school one year earlier perform worse than the average child of their age because they take tests one year earlier, they are positively selected. Moreover, selection becomes more intense for younger children. Our findings have important implications for the debate about freedom of education and for models analyzing parents' optimal investment in children's human capital.