While children who are older when they start school do well academically and socially in the short term, they are more likely to drop out and commit serious crimes as teenagers, new research has found.
"This research provides the first compelling evidence of a causal link between dropout and crime," said lead research author Philip Cook, professor at Duke University.
"Dropouts are greatly over-represented in prison, so we know there is a strong association between dropping out and crime," Cook added in the report which is forthcoming in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.
The study compared two groups of North Carolina public school students -- one group that was enrolled in school in time and the other that entered school late.
"Up until the 16th birthday, it is all positive," Cook said. "They are doing better, relative to their classmates, by every measure. It makes sense, because they are more mature," Cook pointed out.
But after age 16, the picture shifts, and the older students are more likely to drop out and be convicted of a felony before age 20, the research showed.
Among the older students, the likelihood of dropping out and being convicted of a serious crime is 3.4 times greater for those born to an unwed mother and 2.7 times greater for those whose mothers were high school dropouts, the study noted.