When I was in school, I was always happy to have a March birthday so that I could celebrate in school, and the Summer birthday kids were always sad they didn't have a day to pass around doughnuts to friends in celebration of their big annual day. As it turns out, there may be even more disadvantage to having a Summer birthday (they just can't catch a break), as a 2017 study that's resurfaced, which looked at the relationship between a child's school starting age and cognitive development, found that August babies who start school at the same time as those kids born the previous September statistically don't perform as well in school as their peers.
The study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, was conducted in Florida, where the birthday cutoff is Sept. 1 (for reference, kids in 2019's kindergarten classes will have been born from Sept. 1, 2013, through Aug. 31, 2014). The study looked at nearly one million Florida kids who were born between 1994 and 2000 and attended schools in the Florida Department of Education for the academic years 1997-98 through 2011-12; in addition to the finding that the younger kids performed more poorly in school, the data showed that September-born children were 2.1 percent more likely to go to college, 3.3 percent more likely to graduate from college, and 15.4 percent less likely to be incarcerated for juvenile crime before the age of 16 when compared to their August-born classmates.
The debate over "redshirting," or holding a child back from starting kindergarten for another year, is a hot one in the parenting world. The concern over whether a younger child may or may not be ready to hit the books in a classroom setting is one many parents of Summer babies experience, so with kindergarten registrations all over the nation occurring, this study's resurfacing makes perfect sense.
"So, while an August baby may have the same IQ as a September baby, their brain hasn't had the same opportunity to grow and mature."
"If you are the oldest in your class, your brain has had more time to develop than all the other kids," Katherine Firestone, founder of the Fireborn Institute, told Parents. "So, while an August baby may have the same IQ as a September baby, their brain hasn't had the same opportunity to grow and mature. So, the September baby is socially adept and his brain is ready to learn to read, but the August baby is 11 months behind and may not yet be ready, making things like reading and friendships more difficult."
However, while holding your child back from kindergarten may not hold them back at all in the long-term, Krzysztof Karbownik, one of the report's authors, shared with Today that the study's authors are certainly not telling people to hold their kids back just because of their findings. In fact, it's one of the biggest misconceptions of research like this.
"If you're (holding an August-born child back) to give just an extra boost to your kids, it might actually backfire. Parents think about the immediate gains, but they don't think about the cost that redshirting could bring," he said, noting that loss of income once in the labor force could be an example of a cost. The research also notes that though "the September-August difference in kindergarten readiness is dramatically different by subgroup, by the time students take their first exams, the [diversity] in estimated effects effectively disappears."
So as it turns out, just as it is with many parenting debates, there's no "right" answer to when your late Summer baby should start kindergarten. You are the only person who can decide what's best for your child, but a little research to go along with your expert assessment of your child's capabilities never hurts, right?