Original Paper

Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 697-739

First online:

The younger, the better? Age-related differences in academic performance at university

  • Michele PellizzariAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, Bocconi UniversityIGIERIZA“Carlo F. Dondena” Centre for Research on Social DynamicsFondazione Rodolfo Debenedetti Email author 
  • , Francesco C. BillariAffiliated withIGIER“Carlo F. Dondena” Centre for Research on Social DynamicsDepartment of Policy Analysis and Public Management, Bocconi University

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In this paper, we investigate differences in academic performance among students of different ages within the same cohorts using a unique database of students at Bocconi University. Our data allow to control for potential selection effects as well as for differences in cognitive ability, as measured by an attitudinal entry test. Contrary to most of the existing evidence for younger pupils, we document that at the undergraduate level, youngest students perform better compared with their oldest peers. This finding is only partly explained by differences in cognitive ability and rather seems to be associated with differences in social activities.


Age effects Cognitive ability Academic performance

JEL Classification

J1 I23 I24