Ph.d.-forsvar: Hans Henrik Sievertsen: From Birth to Graduation – Essays on the Economics of Education and early Interventions

This PhD dissertation consists of three self-contained essays which revolve around the question of how external factors affect the individual's health and educational attainment.  While each essay is a result of independent work, the three essays as a whole cover three important events in the individual's life:  birth, school enrollment and the transmission from school to the labor market. 

In the first essay I estimate the effects of early hospital discharge after birth on child and mother well-being.  Using Danish administrative data, I find that a same-day discharge has negative short- and longer-run health effects for the child and the mother, and a negative effect on the child’s primary school performance. I find that privileged mothers compensate for the lack of treatment in hospital by increasing their investment in the child, while disadvantaged mothers reinforce the effect of reduced treatment by reducing their investments. The parental responses to treatment may explain why the longer-run health and schooling effects are heterogeneous with respect to initial child resources and mother characteristics.

In the second essay I identify the effect of school starting age on non-cognitive skills using Danish survey- and register-based data. I exploit the discontinuity in school starting age around January 1st, which is caused by the rule that Danish children should enroll in school the calendar year they turn six. I find that a delayed school start reduces hyperactivity, a measure with strong negative links to student achievement.  However, the estimated effects on non-cognitive dimensions with weaker links to student achievement (emotion, conduct, peer relations, and social skills) are small and statistically insignificant. In the third essay I use Danish administrative data to show that local unemployment has both a short- and a long-run effect on school enrollment and completion. The short-run effect causes students to advance their enrollment, and consequently their completion, of additional schooling.  The long-run effect causes students who would otherwise never have enrolled to enroll and complete schooling.  The effects are strongest for children of low educated parents.