The impact of music on educational attainment


This paper analyzes the impact of music practice on educational outcomes. Estimates from multivariate regressions and individual fixed effects suggest that childhood musical activity—either playing an instrument or singing—relates positively to educational achievements in adolescence. The magnitude and significance of the estimated music coefficients for different music indicators is robust when increasing the amount of individual and family control variables. Yet, the size of the music estimates decreases when holding constant the effect of parental education, other time leisure activities, and previous educational achievements.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    Alternative music literature addresses the effect of music listening and music theory on cognition-related outcomes. See Rauscher et al. (1993), Kaempfe et al. (2010), Garlin and Owen (2006), Hetland (2000), Vaughn (2000) and Edelson and Johnson (2003).

  2. 2.

    Similar results are obtained by Pantev et al. (1998) and Hyde et al. (2009).

  3. 3.

    Also see Schlaug et al. (1995), Lee et al. (2003) and Schlaug and Jaencke (2001).

  4. 4.

    For recent debates see Schellenberg (2006, 2011).

  5. 5.

    For a broad based meta-analyses of IQ, see Schellenberg (2001, 2006, 2011), Bilhartz et al. (2000), or Johnson and Memmott (2006). For broad based meta-analyses of spatial tasks, see Rauscher et al. (1997) and Hetland (2000). Costa-Giomi (1999) is one of few experiments not to find any significant effect.

  6. 6.

    This channel finds particular attention in sports economics when studying the impact of sports on educational achievements. See Lechner (2009) and Pfeifer and Cornelißen (2010) for recent publications.

  7. 7.

    Some responds have reported individual test scores in different school subjects. However, these scores are missing for a large proportion of the sample that it seemed advisable not to use these for the analysis.

  8. 8.

    See Dustmann (2004) and Cooke (2003).


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Correspondence to Philip Yang.

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Yang, P. The impact of music on educational attainment. J Cult Econ 39, 369–396 (2015).

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  • Human capital
  • Education
  • Music

JEL Classification

  • I21
  • Z11
  • J24
  • J22