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Research Questions

  1. What would be the economic impact of a state-wide universal shift in U.S. school start times to 8:30 a.m.?
  2. Would a state-wide universal shift in U.S. school times to 8:30 a.m. be a cost-effective policy measure?

Numerous studies have shown that later school start times are associated with positive student outcomes, including improvements in academic performance, mental and physical health, and public safety. While the benefits are well-documented in the literature, there is opposition against delaying school times across the U.S. A major argument is the claim that delaying school start times will result in significant additional costs due to changes in transportation, such as rescheduling bus routes. This 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 8:30 a.m.

Using a novel macroeconomic modelling approach, the study estimates changes in the economic performance of 47 U.S. 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 U.S. economy. From a policy perspective, the study's findings demonstrate the significant economic gains resulting from the delay in school start times over a relatively short period of time following the adoption of the policy change.

Key Findings

  • The study suggested that delaying school start times to 8:30 a.m. is a cost-effective, population-level strategy which could have a significant impact on public health and the U.S. economy.
  • The study suggested that the benefits of later start times far out-weigh the immediate costs. Even after just two years, the study projects an economic gain of $8.6 billion to the U.S. economy, which would already outweigh the costs per student from delaying school start times to 8:30 a.m.
  • After a decade, the study showed that delaying schools start times would contribute $83 billion to the U.S. economy, with this increasing to $140 billion after 15 years. During the 15 year period examined by the study, the average annual gain to the U.S. economy would about $9.3 billion each year.
  • Throughout the study's cost-benefit projections, a conservative approach was undertaken which did not include other effects from insufficient sleep, such as higher suicide rates, increased obesity and mental health issues — all of which are difficult to quantify precisely. Therefore, it is likely that the reported economic benefits from delaying school start times could be even higher across many U.S. states.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Methodological approach

  • Chapter Three

    The economic implications of later school start times

  • Chapter Four

    Summary and discussion

  • Appendix A

    The overlapping generations model

  • Appendix B

    Derivation of educational attainment data

  • Appendix C

    Net increase in sleep length

  • Appendix D

    Benefit-cost ratios per student ("Very High" cost scenario)

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Europe.

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