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Evaluating the “Threat†Effects of Grade Repetition. Exploiting the 2001 Reform by the French-Speaking Community of Belgium


  • Michèle BELOT

    () (Oxford University, Nuffield Centre for Experimental Social Sciences (CESS), Nuffield College)


    () (UNIVERSITE CATHOLIQUE DE LOUVAIN, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES))


Like active labour market programmes (ALPMs), grade repetition could generate two types of effects. Better/worse outcomes due to programme participation (i.e. the fact that pupils repeat a particular grade). This is what the existing literature on grade repetition has focused on. Another potential outcome is the ‘threat’ effect of grade repetition. Pupils and/or their family could make significant efforts to avoid grade repetition and its important opportunity cost. Learning effort by pupils could be a function of the risk of grade repetition. This paper attempts to assess that relationship by exploiting a reform introduced in 2001 in the French-Speaking Community of Belgium, synonymous with a reinforced overall threat of grade repetition. The possibility to impose grade repetition sanctions and the end of grade 8-12 has always existed, but in year 2001, policy makers reinstated the possibility to repeat grade 7, putting an end to the regime of “social promotion†applicable to that grade since 1995. We use data from two waves of the PISA study (corresponding to periods before and after the reform) to evaluate the medium-term effects of this reform. The first measure of performance we consider is the position in the curriculum (or grade) reached at the age of 15, and we show that it deteriorated after 2001. We also consider the reform’s impact on test scores. Focusing on grade 10, we fail to verify the necessary condition for grade repetition threat to lead to higher test scores. The tentative conclusion is that an enhanced threat of grade retention after 2001 did not lead to better medium-term outcomes, even among the segments of the population the most at risk of grade repetition.

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  • Michèle BELOT & Vincent VANDENBERGHE, 2011. "Evaluating the “Threat†Effects of Grade Repetition. Exploiting the 2001 Reform by the French-Speaking Community of Belgium," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2011026, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  • Handle: RePEc:ctl:louvir:2011026

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bart, COCKX & Muriel, DEJEMEPPE, 2007. "IIs the Notification of Monitoring a Threat to the Unemployed ? A Regression Discontinuity Approach," Discussion Papers (ECON - Département des Sciences Economiques) 2007016, Université catholique de Louvain, Département des Sciences Economiques.
    2. Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2004. "Remedial Education and Student Achievement: A Regression-Discontinuity Analysis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(1), pages 226-244, February.
    3. Geerdsen, Lars Pico & Holm, Anders, 2007. "Duration of UI periods and the perceived threat effect from labour market programmes," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 639-652, June.
    4. Rosholm, Michael & Svarer, Michael, 2004. "Estimating the Threat Effect of Active Labour Market Programmes," IZA Discussion Papers 1300, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Eide, Eric R. & Showalter, Mark H., 2001. "The effect of grade retention on educational and labor market outcomes," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(6), pages 563-576, December.
    6. Michael Rosholm & Michael Svarer, 2008. "The Threat Effect of Active Labour Market Programmes," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 110(2), pages 385-401, June.
    7. Dan A. Black & Jeffrey A. Smith & Mark C. Berger & Brett J. Noel, 2003. "Is the Threat of Reemployment Services More Effective Than the Services Themselves? Evidence from Random Assignment in the UI System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1313-1327, September.
    8. Lars Pico Geerdsen, 2006. "Is there a Threat Effect of Labour Market Programmes? A Study of ALMP in the Danish UI System," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(513), pages 738-750, July.
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    More about this item


    Grade retention; educational attainment; threat effects;

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • H52 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Education

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