Review: 'The Family Firm'
Every year, the parents of nearly a million summer-born five-year-olds have to make an important choice: Should I enroll my child in kindergarten this year or next? Most go ahead and put their kid in school, but about 16 percent opt to "redshirt," holding their child back a year. The putative reason is that six-year-olds are more intellectually capable than five-year-olds, and so redshirting gives a kid a leg up that will, over 12 years of schooling, compound into major academic returns. But is that true? Are kids helped or hindered by being older than their peers? Does redshirting even do anything at all?
Such stressful decisions—judgments that require us to balance many factors, marred by uncertainty and a sense of enormous import—are a constant feature of parenting. Yet many parents make them haphazardly, relying on a combination of emotional intuition, friends' anecdotes, and short-term thinking. The core argument of The Family Firm, the latest book from economist Emily Oster, is that with just a little effort, making such choices becomes a whole lot easier.
Charles Fain Lehman is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal.
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