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How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings? Evidence from Project Star

November 2011

Raj Chetty, John N. Friedman, Nathaniel Hilger, Emmanuel Saez, Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Dany Yagan


In Tennessee 11,571 students were randomly assigned classrooms for Kindergarten through Grade 3. The students were tracked later in life, to determine outcomes associated with the classrooms. Students in small classes were significantly more likely to attend college and students with a more experienced teacher had higher earnings later in life. Class size had an effect on educational performance but not on earnings.

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Policy Implications

This study is further evidence that the same interventions that improve education outcomes for students (i.e. quality teachers and small class sizes) improve life-long quality of life for students. While the study does not point to specific policies to improve teacher quality, we do know that providing quality teachers for early childhood provides significant social value. We should also strive to reduce class size, but only if we can do so without reducing teacher quality.

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