Are We Spending Too Many Years in School?

Causal Evidence of the Impact of Shortening Secondary School Duration

  • Bettina Büttner
  • Stephan L. Thomsen
Schlagworte: student performance, school duration, learning intensity, natural experiment, JEL: I21, J18, C21


This paper analyzes the impact of shortening the duration of secondary schooling on the accumulation of human capital. In 2003, an educational policy reform was enacted in Saxony-Anhalt, a German state, providing a natural experimental setting. The thirteenth year of schooling was eliminated for those students currently attending the ninth grade. Tenth grade students were unaffected. The academic curriculum remained almost unaltered. Primary data collected from the double cohort of 2007 Abitur graduates reveals signficantly negative effects for both genders in mathematics. Only females were negatively effected in English and the results obtained in German literature were statistically insignificant.