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Early Tracking and the Misfortune of Being Young


  • For helpful discussions and comments, we would like to thank Ludger Wößmann, Guido Schwerdt, Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, Martin Halla, two anonymous referees, and (seminar) participants in Stockholm, Munich, Linz, London, Tallinn, and Vienna. The usual disclaimers apply. Financial support from the Austrian Science Fund (NRN S103) and the municipality of Linz is gratefully acknowledged. The administrative data were provided by the municipality of Linz.


Recent research suggests that the relative age of a student within a grade has a causal effect on educational achievement, and that this effect fades with the duration of schooling. In this study, we estimate the causal relative-age effect on track choice in Austria, a country where students are first tracked in grade 5 (at the age of 10 years), and again in grade 9. We find a strong positive relative-age effect on track choice in grades 5–8. The age effect persists beyond grade 8 for students from less-favorable socioeconomic backgrounds and students in urban areas.