Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 697–739

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

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00148-011-0379-3

Cite this article as:
Pellizzari, M. & Billari, F.C. J Popul Econ (2012) 25: 697. doi:10.1007/s00148-011-0379-3


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 effectsCognitive abilityAcademic performance

JEL Classification


Supplementary material

148_2011_379_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (72 kb)
(PDF 71.9 KB)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michele Pellizzari
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Francesco C. Billari
    • 2
    • 4
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsBocconi UniversityMilanItaly
  2. 2.IGIERMilanItaly
  3. 3.IZABonnGermany
  4. 4.“Carlo F. Dondena” Centre for Research on Social DynamicsMilanItaly
  5. 5.Fondazione Rodolfo DebenedettiMilanItaly
  6. 6.Department of Policy Analysis and Public ManagementBocconi UniversityMilanItaly