Kept back to get ahead? Kindergarten retention and academic performance
While most existing research concludes that grade retention generates no benefits for the retainees' academic performance, holding low-achieving children back has been a popular practice for decades. Drawing on a recently collected nationally representative dataset in the US, this paper estimates the causal effect of repeating kindergarten on the retained children's academic performance. Since we observe children being held back only when they enroll in schools that permit kindergarten retention, this paper jointly models the choice of enrolling in a school that allows kindergarten retention, the decision of repeating kindergarten, and children's academic performance in higher grades. A control function approach is developed to estimate the resulting double-hurdle treatment model, which accounts for unobserved heterogeneity in the retention effect. A nearest-neighbor matching estimator is also implemented. Holding children back in kindergarten is found to have positive but diminishing effects on their academic performance up to third grade.
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