Unlucky to be young? The long-term effects of school starting age on smoking behavior and health

  • Michael BahrsEmail author
  • Mathias Schumann
Original Paper


The literature on school entry laws has shown that relative school starting age affects smoking behavior and health in adolescence, yet it remains unclear whether these effects persist into adulthood. Filling this gap, we analyze the long-term effects of relative school starting age on smoking behavior and health in adulthood. This study employs a fuzzy regression discontinuity design, using school entry rules combined with birth month as an instrument for school starting age. The analysis adopts data from the German Socio-Economic Panel. The results reveal that an increase in relative school starting age significantly reduces the long-term risk of smoking, improves long-term health, and affects physical rather than mental health. Several robustness checks confirm these results. In addition, we present suggestive evidence that the relative age composition of peers and the school environment are important mechanisms.


Smoking Health Education School starting age Regression discontinuity design 



We thank Thomas Siedler and Jan Marcus for beneficial discussions that improved this study. We further thank participants of the seminars at Universität Hamburg, Hamburg Center for Health Economics (HCHE), the 12th International German Socio-Economic Panel User Conference, and the 11th European Conference on Health Economics. We are grateful to three anonymous referees for their help and guidance.

Funding information

This study has received funding from the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (Federal Ministry of Education and Research), project “Nicht-monetäre Erträge von Bildung in den Bereichen Gesundheit, nicht-kognitive Fähigkeiten sowie gesellschaftliche und politische Partizipation.”

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interests

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fakultät für Wirtschafts- und SozialwissenschaftenUniversität HamburgHamburgGermany

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