The Economic Implications of Later School Start Times in the United States

Published in: Sleep Health [Epub October 2017]. doi: 10.1016/j.sleh.2017.08.007

Posted on RAND.org on October 31, 2017

by Marco Hafner, Martin Stepanek, Wendy M. Troxel

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Numerous studies have shown that later school start times (SST) are associated with positive student outcomes, including improvements in academic performance, mental and physical health, and public safety. While the benefits of later SST are very well documented in the literature, in practice there is opposition against delaying SST. A major argument against later SST is the claim that delaying SST will result in significant additional costs for schools due to changes in bussing strategies. However, to date, there has only been one published study that has quantified the potential economic benefits of later SST in relation to potential costs. The current study investigates the economic implications of later school start times by examining a policy experiment and its subsequent state-wide economic effects of a state-wide universal shift in school start times to 8.30AM. Using a novel macroeconomic modeling approach, the study estimates changes in the economic performance of 47 US states following a delayed school start time, which includes the benefits of higher academic performance of students and reduced car crash rates. The benefit–cost projections of this study suggest that delaying school start times is a cost-effective, population-level strategy, which could have a significant impact on public health and the US economy. From a policy perspective, these findings are crucial as they demonstrate that significant economic gains resulting from the delay in SST accrue over a relatively short period of time following the adoption of the policy shift.

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