June 1, 2019
This thesis contains three studies that examine the role of education in skill accumulation in early childhood. Chapter 1 examines the effect of elementary school teachers' beliefs about gender roles on student achievement. We exploit a natural experiment where teachers are assigned randomly to schools and students are allocated to teachers randomly. We show that girls who are taught for longer than a year by teachers with traditional gender views have lower achievement, and this effect is amplified with longer exposure to the same teacher. We find no effect on boys. The effect is partly mediated by teachers transmitting traditional beliefs to girls. In Chapter 2, we analyze the effect of school starting age on children's learning outcomes and noncognitive skills through the first two years of primary school. We exploit a sharp date of birth cutoff for school entrance to identify the school starting age effect. We test whether the effect of entrance age varies with the child's readiness for school. We find that being young at school entrance has a negative and significant effect on verbal acquisition in the first year of schooling. In contrast, we find little evidence for entry age effect on social behavior growth and reduction of externalizing behavior. In Chapter 3, I investigate the relationship between the noncognitive skills and aspirations in elementary school students using unique data on occupational and educational aspirations reported by students and teachers. I find a significant gender difference in the type of skills that predict educational and occupational aspirations: While competitiveness and challenge seeking appear as two key predictors for boys, patience and self-confidence emerge as the only critical skills that predict aspirations for girls. I also find that teachers are more likely to have high aspirations for students who show inclination toward competitive and challenging tasks.