How does your kindergarten classroom affect your earnings? Evidence from Project Star

Q J Econ. 2011;126(4):1593-660. doi: 10.1093/qje/qjr041.


In Project STAR, 11,571 students in Tennessee and their teachers were randomly assigned to classrooms within their schools from kindergarten to third grade. This article evaluates the long-term impacts of STAR by linking the experimental data to administrative records. We first demonstrate that kindergarten test scores are highly correlated with outcomes such as earnings at age 27, college attendance, home ownership, and retirement savings. We then document four sets of experimental impacts. First, students in small classes are significantly more likely to attend college and exhibit improvements on other outcomes. Class size does not have a significant effect on earnings at age 27, but this effect is imprecisely estimated. Second, students who had a more experienced teacher in kindergarten have higher earnings. Third, an analysis of variance reveals significant classroom effects on earnings. Students who were randomly assigned to higher quality classrooms in grades K–3—as measured by classmates' end-of-class test scores—have higher earnings, college attendance rates, and other outcomes. Finally, the effects of class quality fade out on test scores in later grades, but gains in noncognitive measures persist.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Education* / economics
  • Education* / history
  • Education* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Income* / history
  • Research Personnel / economics
  • Research Personnel / education
  • Research Personnel / history
  • Research Personnel / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Research Personnel / psychology
  • Research Report / history
  • Social Mobility* / economics
  • Social Mobility* / history
  • Students* / history
  • Students* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Students* / psychology
  • Teaching* / economics
  • Teaching* / history
  • Tennessee / ethnology
  • Test Taking Skills* / economics
  • Test Taking Skills* / history
  • Test Taking Skills* / psychology