Over at Flypaper, Michael Petrilli makes a great point. Birth rates fell precipitously during the Great Recession, as birth rates usually do during hard economic times. In fact, from their 2007 peak births fell by 9 percent. Mike points out that if you know how many kids are born this year, you have a pretty darned good idea how many kids will enter kindergarten five years down the road.
Petrilli is warning everyone that we’re going to need many fewer kindergarten teachers, then fewer 1st grade teachers, and so on. Eventually, birth rates may return to their pre-recession levels, but the number of kindergarten teachers needed isn’t a long-run sort of thing; it depends on the number of five-year olds right now. Since the adjustment is likely to be large, Petrilli would like policymakers to be thinking ahead.
For fun, I decided to compare the Department of Education’s forecast of public school kindergarten students (from the Digest of Education Statistics) to forecasts from my own super sophisticated, dynamic stochastic statistical model. (I regressed the number of kindergarten students on the number of births five years earlier.) Here’s the picture-numbers from 2012 and after are forecasts.
My forecasts (red line) do a mighty fine job of matching the actual data. Looks to me like the government forecasts are overpredicting the future number of kindergarten kids by several hundred thousand.
Anyone care to put down a friendly wager on who’s right?