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Not Ready to Go Back to School? Here's Why Delayed School Times Could Make Us Richer and Healthier

Today is the first day of school for me, and I’m sure you can all agree that summer break went by way too quickly. The one thing I will surely miss the most, though, is sleeping in just a little bit longer.

My sentiments exactly…

For many years, however, several groups, which include educators, psychologists, pediatricians and even economists, have advocated for later school start times.

The average school start time in the U.S. is 8:03 am, and in 42 states, 75% to 100% of public schools start before 8:30 am, which is the CDC-recommended start time. While there has been an ongoing debate on what time school should really start, the National Sleep Foundation found that 87% of high school students are not getting the necessary amount of sleep.

California is the first state to implement legislation that delayed school start times, but majority of the states choose not to do so, hence the ongoing debate. Professor Tiffany Yip, a mother of teenage kids and a professor from Fordham University, conducted a study and concluded that the delaying school start times between 8:30-9:00 a.m. resulted in better developmental outcomes for teens. As kids sleep longer, they found that indicators for anxiety, depressive symptoms, and other negative psychological mood outcomes were much lower. Optimal levels of sleep can preserve physical and mental health, reduce unsafe behaviors, improve academic performance and lead to a better overall quality of life.

On the other hand, advocates of starting school early contend that later school times conflict with parents’ work schedules and prevent them from getting to work on time. The biggest issue also comes from transportation since school districts use the same buses, which end up having staggered pick-up and drop-off times. Extracurricular activities also suffer since these wold have to start much later.

But, wait… you might say, isn’t this a blog about economics? Well apparently, not only do delayed school start times provide health benefits, but they also come with economic advantages as well. In 2017, the RAND Corporation conducted a robust study that shows the economic effects of delayed start times. Using a comprehensive economic approach, the study predicts that the overall economic benefit of delayed school start times over 15 years is $83 billion! This study takes into account several factors, one of which is the overall economic impact of the working life of an individual. One of these main impacts is reduced car crashes amongst adolescents across 47 states. The study also considered the potential multiplier effect of increased lifetime income of individuals.

Who would have known that extra sleep can actually result in overall economic gains? So to those who think sleep may be overrated: Think again. Not only will it make you happier, it may also makes you richer.


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