The Effect of School-Immunization Exemption Policies on Enrollment Rates for Prekindergarten and Kindergarten

Tuesday, June 14, 2016: 1:35 PM
402 (Claudia Cohen Hall)

Author(s): Emily Zier; W. David Bradford

Discussant: Lisa Schulkind

There is no national immunization policy in the United States, and the strictness of regulations allowing vaccine exemption for school attendance varies greatly by state. Furthermore, despite substantial evidence on the safety and health benefits of immunization, there has been a recent upsurge in skepticism amongst parents regarding vaccine safety and efficacy for their children. In this paper, we analyze whether or not the strength of state vaccine exemption policies affect the enrollment rates for prekindergarten and kindergarten. Given the significant positive effects that pre-k and kindergarten have for a child’s future educational attainment, understanding negative unintended consequences from vaccination policy will be of interest to policy makers who seek to optimize public health and educational policy. We hypothesize that states with stricter exemption policies will have lower average enrollment in prekindergarten and kindergarten amongst children in the relevant age ranges.  To test these hypotheses, we construct a long panel of data on state level enrollment rates, state characteristics and utilize a recently validated measure of state vaccination policy effectiveness.