Eastern Economic Journal

, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 301–320 | Cite as

Class Size, Course Spacing, and Academic Outcomes

  • Kevin P. Belanger
  • Angela K. DillsEmail author
  • Rey Hernández-Julián
  • Kurt W. Rotthoff
Original Article


Using administrative data from a land-grant university, we estimate how class size and waiting longer between courses impact student grades using paired prerequisite and follow-up courses. We find that students in larger prerequisite classes earn lower grades in follow-up courses, although this effect is mitigated as the time between the two courses increases. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that students learn less in larger class sections, leaving them with less knowledge to decay and that any increase in student maturity may more than make up for the forgotten material.


Knowledge decay (Summer) Learning Loss Class size 

JEL Classification

I23 I21 


  1. Alexander, K., Doris R. Entwisle, and Linda S. Olson. 2007. Lasting Consequences of the Summer Learning Gap. American Sociological Review 72: 167–180.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, D. Mark, and Mary B. Walker. 2015. Does Shortening the School Week Impact Student Performance? Evidence from the Four-Day School Week. Education Finance and Policy 10 (3): 314–349.Google Scholar
  3. Asqalan, Manar M., Dima Hijazi, and Amal Al Natour. 2016. Teaching Large Classes: What are the Beliefs of Yarmouk University Instructors? Arab World English Journal 7 (2): 380–393.Google Scholar
  4. Bandiera, Oriana, Valentino Larcinese, and Imran Rasul. 2010. Heterogenous Class Size Effects: New Evidence from a Panel of University Students. The Economic Journal 120 (549): 1365–1398.Google Scholar
  5. Beattie, Irenee R., and Megan Thiele. 2016. Connecting in Class? College Class Size and Inequality in Academic Social Capital. Journal of Higher Education 87 (3): 332–362.Google Scholar
  6. Braga, Michela, Marco Paccagnella, and Michele Pellizzari. 2014. Evaluating Students’ Evaluations of Professors. Economics Of Education Review 41 (August): 71–88.Google Scholar
  7. Burkam, D., D. Ready, V. Lee, and L. LoGerfo. 2003. Social Class Differences in Summer Learning Between Kindergarten and First Grade: Model Specification and Estimation. Sociology of Education 77 (1): 1–31.Google Scholar
  8. Carrell, Scott E., and James E. West. 2010. Does Professor Quality Matter? Evidence from Random Assignment of Students to Professors. Journal of Political Economy 118 (3): 409–432.Google Scholar
  9. Cooper, H., B. Nye, K. Charlton, K. Lindsay, and S. Greathouse. 1996. The Effects of Summer Vacation on Achievement Test Scores: A Narrative and Meta-Analytic Review. Review of Educational Research 66 (3): 227–268.Google Scholar
  10. Cooper, H., J. Valentine, K. Charlton, and A. Melson. 2003. The Effects of Modified School Calendars on Student Achievement and on School and Community Attitudes. Review of Educational Research 73 (1): 1–52.Google Scholar
  11. Diette, Timothy M., and Manu Raghav. 2015. Class Size Matters: Heterogeneous Effects of Larger Classes on College Student Learning. Eastern Economic Journal 41 (2): 273–283.Google Scholar
  12. Dills, Angela K., and Rey Hernández-Julián. 2008. Transfer College Quality and Student Performance. Eastern Economic Journal 34 (2): 172–189.Google Scholar
  13. Dills, Angela K., Rey Hernández-Julián, and Kurt W. Rotthoff. 2016. Knowledge Decay Between Semesters. Economics of Education Review 50 (February): 63–74.Google Scholar
  14. Downey, D., P. Hippel, and B. Broh. 2004. Are Schools the Great Equalizer? Cognitive Inequality During the Summer Months and the School Year. American Sociological Review 69 (5): 613–635.Google Scholar
  15. Freeman, Scott, Sarah L. Eddy, Miles McDonough, Michelle K. Smith, Nnadozie Okoroafor, Hannah Jordt, and Mary Pat Wenderoth. 2014. Active Learning Increases Student Performance in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111 (23): 8410–8415.Google Scholar
  16. Gleason, Jim. 2012. Using Technology-Assisted Instruction and Assessment to Reduce the Effect of Class Size on Student Outcomes in Undergraduate Mathematics Courses. College Teaching 60 (3): 87–94.Google Scholar
  17. Graves, Jennifer. 2010. The Academic Impact of Multi-track Year-Round School Calendars: A Response to School Overcrowding. Journal of Urban Economics 67 (3): 378–391.Google Scholar
  18. Graves, Jennifer. 2011. Effects of Year-Round Schooling on Disadvantaged Students and the Distribution of Standardized Test Performance. Economics of Education Review 30 (6): 1281–1305.Google Scholar
  19. Graves, Jennifer, Steven McMullen, and Kathryn Rouse. 2013. Multi-track Year-Round Schooling as Cost Saving Reform: Not Just a Matter of Time. Education Finance and Policy 8 (3): 300–315.Google Scholar
  20. Jackson, John D., and Ethel B. Jones. 1990. Communications—College Grades and Labor Market Rewards. Journal of Human Resources 25 (2): 253–266.Google Scholar
  21. Khazaei, Zeinab Moradi, Ahmad Moin Zadeh, and Saeed Ketabi. 2012. Willingness to Communicate in Iranian EFL Learners: The Effect of Class Size. English Language Teaching 5 (11): 181–187.Google Scholar
  22. Kneese, Carolyn. 2000. Teaching in Year-Round Schools. ERIC Digest (Report No. EDOSP-2000-1). Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher. Education (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED449123).Google Scholar
  23. Krueger, Alan B. 2003. Economic Considerations and Class Size. Economic Journal 113 (485): F34–F63.Google Scholar
  24. LoPresto, Michael C., and Timothy F. Slater. 2016. A New Comparison of Active Learning Strategies to Traditional Lectures for Teaching College Astronomy. Journal of Astronomy & Earth Sciences Education 3 (1): 59–76.Google Scholar
  25. Mathis, William J. 2017. The Effectiveness of Class Size Reduction. Education Digest 82 (5): 60–64.Google Scholar
  26. McMullen, Steven C., and Kathryn E. Rouse. 2012. The Impact of Year-Round Schooling on Academic Achievement: Evidence from Mandatory School Calendar Conversions. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 4 (4): 230–252.Google Scholar
  27. O’Brien, D. 1999. Family and School Effects on the Cognitive Growth of Minority and Disadvantaged Elementary School Students. University of Texas, Dallas. Texas Schools Project, Working Paper 09.Google Scholar
  28. Pleeter, Saul, and John Warner. 2001. The Personal Discount Rate: Evidence from Military Drawdown Programs. American Economic Review 91 (1): 33–53.Google Scholar
  29. Sapelli, Claudio, and Gastón Illanes. 2016. Class Size and Teacher Effects in Higher Education. Economics of Education Review 52: 19–28.Google Scholar
  30. Tafreschi, Darjusch and Petra Thiemann. 2015. Doing it Twice, Getting it Right? The Effects of Grade Retention and Course Repetition in Higher Education. USC Dornsife Institute for New Economic Thinking Working Paper No. 15-08.Google Scholar
  31. Wise, David. 1975. Academic Achievement and Job Performance. American Economic Review 65 (3): 350–366.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© EEA 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin P. Belanger
    • 1
  • Angela K. Dills
    • 2
    Email author
  • Rey Hernández-Julián
    • 3
  • Kurt W. Rotthoff
    • 1
  1. 1.Seton Hall UniversitySouth OrangeUSA
  2. 2.Western Carolina UniversityCullowheeUSA
  3. 3.Metropolitan State University of DenverDenverUSA

Personalised recommendations