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The Effect of Grade Retention on High School Completion

  • Brian Jacob
  • Lars Lefgren

Low-achieving students in many school districts are retained in a grade in order to allow them to gain the academic or social skills that teachers believe are necessary to succeed academically. This practice is highly controversial, with many researchers claiming that it leads to higher dropout rates although selection issues have complicated previous analyses. In this paper, we use a regression discontinuity design to examine the impact of grade retention on high school completion. We find that grade retention leads to a modest increase in the probability of dropping out for older students, but has no significant effect on younger students.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13514.

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Date of creation: Oct 2007
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2009. "The Effect of Grade Retention on High School Completion," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(3), pages 33-58, July.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13514
Note: CH ED LS
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  1. Imbens, Guido W. & Lemieux, Thomas, 2008. "Regression discontinuity designs: A guide to practice," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 615-635, February.
  2. Imbens, Guido W & Angrist, Joshua D, 1994. "Identification and Estimation of Local Average Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(2), pages 467-75, March.
  3. 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.
  4. Jinyong Hahn & Petra Todd & Wilbert Van der Klaauw, 1999. "Evaluating the Effect of an Antidiscrimination Law Using a Regression-Discontinuity Design," NBER Working Papers 7131, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Lee, David S. & Card, David, 2008. "Regression discontinuity inference with specification error," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 655-674, February.
  6. Alan Krueger, 1997. "Experimental Estimates of Education Production Functions," Working Papers 758, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  7. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2000. "The Effects Of Class Size On Student Achievement: New Evidence From Population Variation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1239-1285, November.
  8. Brian A. Jacob & Steven D. Levitt, 2003. "Rotten Apples: An Investigation Of The Prevalence And Predictors Of Teacher Cheating," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 843-877, August.
  9. Murnane, Richard J & Willett, John B & Levy, Frank, 1995. "The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(2), pages 251-66, May.
  10. 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.
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