Hans Henrik Sievertsen


  1. "Cognitive fatigue influences students’ performance on standardized tests", with Francesca Gino and Marco Piovesan, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), vol. 113 no. 10, 2016, Pages 2621–2624.

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    Abstract: Using test data for all children attending Danish public schools between school years 2009/10 and 2012/13, we examine how the time of the test affects performance. Test time is determined by the weekly class schedule and computer availability at the school. We find that, for every hour later in the day, test performance decreases by 0.9% of an SD (95% CI, 0.7–1.0%). However, a 20- to 30-minute break improves average test performance by 1.7% of an SD (95% CI, 1.2–2.2%). These findings have two important policy implications: First, cognitive fatigue should be taken into consideration when deciding on the length of the school day and the frequency and duration of breaks throughout the day. Second, school accountability systems should control for the influence of external factors on test scores.

    Extra material: Break data; Break do-file (for Stata).
    Press: Scientific American, Forbes, Huffington Post, Phys.org, Harvard Business Review, BBC (radio show), Quartz , Daily Mail, NyMag, Spiegel, Videnskab.dk, Politiken
  2. "Care around birth, infant and mother health and maternal health investments – Evidence from a nurse strike", with Hanne Kronborg and Miriam Wüst, Social Science and Medicine, Volume 150, February 2016, Pages 201–211.

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    Abstract: Care around birth may impact child and mother health and parental health investments. We exploit the 2008 national strike among Danish nurses to identify the effects of care around birth on infant and mother health (proxied by health care usage) and maternal investments in the health of their newborns. We use administrative data from the population register on 39,810 Danish births in the years 2007–2010 and complementary survey and municipal administrative data on 8288 births in the years 2007–2009 in a differences-in-differences framework. We show that the strike reduced the number of mothers' prenatal midwife consultations, their length of hospital stay at birth, and the number of home visits by trained nurses after hospital discharge. We find that this reduction in care around birth increased the number of child and mother general practitioner (GP) contacts in the first month. As we do not find strong effects of strike exposure on infant and mother GP contacts in the longer run, this result suggests that parents substitute one type of care for another. While we lack power to identify the effects of care around birth on hospital readmissions and diagnoses, our results for maternal health investments indicate that strike-exposed mothers—especially those who lacked postnatal early home visits—are less likely to exclusively breastfeed their child at four months. Thus reduced care around birth may have persistent effects on treated children through its impact on parental investments.

  3. "Local unemployment and the timing of post-secondary schooling", Economics of Education Review, Volume 50, February 2016, Pages 17-28.

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    Abstract: Using Danish administrative data on all high school graduates from 1984 to 1992, I show that local unemployment has both a short- and a long-run effect on school enrollment and completion. The short-run effect causes students to advance their enrollment, and consequently their completion, of additional schooling. The long-run effect causes students who would otherwise never have enrolled to enroll and complete schooling. The effects are strongest for children of parents with no higher education.

  4. "The Exploitation of Talent", with Nicolaj A. Christiansen, Danish Journal of Economics (Nationaløkonomisk tidsskrift) 146 2008(3).

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    Abstract: This article is a review of the seminar paper Superstar Effect in Italian Football which was written for the seminar on sports economics at the Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen and awarded the McKinsey Award in spring 2008. Only the main findings from the seminar paper will be presented here. For details and technicalities we refer to the original seminar paper Christiansen and Sievertsen (2008), which can be dowloaded at www.econ.ku.dk/nf/superstareffect.pdf. In short, superstar economics is the branch of labour economics that deals with the phenomenon of nonlinear and highly rightskewed income distributions, that is observed in certain activities. The puzzle is, that the most talented individuals in these activities can obtain extremely high salaries compared to their colleagues, even though they are only marginally more talented. Theoretical explanations of the puzzle are reviewed and the superstar phenomenon is analysed empirically on Italian football, where a significant superstar effect is found.

Working Papers

  1. "Discharge on the day of birth, parental responses and health and schooling outcomes", with Miriam Wüst, R&R Journal of Health Economics.

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    Abstract: Exploiting the Danish roll-out of same-day discharge policies, we find that treated newborns have a higher probability of first-month hospital readmission. This result may suggest that parents substitute postpartum hospital stays with readmissions. However, a same-day discharge also increases the number of mother and child general practitioner contacts in the first three years and decreases children’s ninth grade GPA. Longer-run e?ects are strongest for at-risk children. Complementing our analyses of administrative data with survey data, we show that a same-day discharge impacts health and schooling in the longer run through both its e?ects on children’s health and on parental investments.

  2. "The Gift of Time? School Starting Age and Mental Health", with Thomas S. Dee, R&R Health Economics.

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    Abstract: In many developed countries, children now begin their formal schooling at an older age. However, a growing body of empirical studies provides little evidence that such schooling delays improve educational and economic outcomes. This study presents new evidence on whether school starting age influences student outcomes by relying on linked Danish survey and register data that include several distinct, widely used, and validated measures of mental health that are reported out-of-school among similarly aged children. We estimate the causal effects of delayed school enrollment using a "fuzzy" regression-discontinuity design based on exact dates of birth and the fact that, in Denmark, children typically enroll in school during the calendar year in which they turn six. We find that a one-year delay in the start of school dramatically reduces inattention/hyperactivity at age 7 (effect size = -0.7), a measure of self regulation with strong negative links to student achievement. We also find that this large and targeted effect persists at age 11. However, the estimated effects of school starting age on other mental-health constructs, which have weaker links to subsequent student achievement, are smaller and less persistent.

    Press: Stanford GSE, The Washington Post, The Seattle Times, Huffington Post, The Guardian, Quartz
  3. "Measuring Vacancies: Firm-level Evidence from Two Measures", with Niels-Jakob Harbo Hansen, R&R Journal of Economic and Business Statistics.

    Abstract: Using firm-level survey- and register-data for both Sweden and Denmark we show systematic mis-measurement in both vacancy measures. While the register-based measure on the aggregate constitutes a quarter of the survey-based measure, the latter is not a super-set of the former. To obtain the full set of unique vacancies in these two databases, the number of survey vacancies should be multiplied by approximately 1.2. Importantly, this adjustment factor varies over time and across firm characteristics. Our findings have implications for both the search-matching literature and policy analysis based on vacancy measures: Observed changes in vacancies can be an outcome of changes in mis-measurement, and are not necessarily changes in the actual number of vacancies.

  4. ”The Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire and Standardized Tests: Reliability Across Time and Age”, with Maria Keilow, Janni Niclasen and Carsten Obel. Submitted.

  5. "The Test Score Gap in Primary School", with Christopher Jamil de Montgomery. Submitted.

  6. "Grades and Student Behavior", with Ulrik Hvidman. Submitted.

  7. "Neonatal Health of Parents and Cognitive Development of Children", with Claus Thustrup Kreiner.

Work in Progress (provisional titles)

  1. ”The Signaling Value of College Grades", with Anne Toft Hansen and Ulrik Hvidman.

  2. ”Quasi-markets and student polarization", with Thorbjørn Sejr Guul and Ulrik Hvidman.

  3. ”Gender differences in Danish top income mobility", with Niels-Jakob Harbo Hansen, Karl Harmenberg, and Erik Öberg.

Reports and book contributions (in Danish)

  1. "En god start - Betydningen af alder ved skolestart for barnets udvikling", SFI - Rapport, 15:38. November, 2015.

  2. "Børn i Lavindkomstfamilier", med Christopher J de Montgomery. SFI - Rapport, 15:22. Juni, 2015.

  3. "Det økonomiske fundament: Finansiering og faktorer med betydning for omkostningerne", with Ulrik Hvidman. Kapitel 4 i Styring, ledelse og resultater på ungdomsuddannelserne. Redigeret af Lotte Bøgh Andersen, Peter Bogetoft, Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen, Torben Tranæs. Syddansk Universitetsforlag 2014.

Public debate - Press

(Press coverage of research papers is listed above.)

Public debate - Presentations