Early Grades and Later Earnings

Prof. Raj Chetty

In their paper, "How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings? Evidence From Project STAR," Professors Raj Chetty and John Friedman report that students' experiences in kindergarten and the first few grades significantly affect their financial future.

By matching up data from current federal tax returns with the results of a late 1980s study of over eleven thousand K-3 students, the researchers demonstrated that the quality of a student's kindergarten classroom environment is "highly correlated" not only to earnings, but also to "college attendance rates, quality of college attended, home ownership, and 401(k) savings." Further, they found that both poor and rich students enjoy a financial boost; the effects aren't limited to those privileged to attend the best schools.

Profs. Chetty and Friedman looked at the aggregate effect of factors like class size, peer performance, and teacher quality on the students' adult lives. While the available data did not allow them to examine each factor separately, the evidence strongly suggests that great teachers have the biggest impact of all.

Read more in a Gazette interview with the professors here. Raj Chetty is a Professor of Economics and recipient of a 2012 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. You can find a list of Prof. Chetty's works in DASH here. John Friedman is an Assistant Professor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Find his works in DASH here.