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Does Taking One Step Back Get You Two Steps Forward? Grade Retention and School Performance in Rural China


  • Chen, Xinxin
  • Shi, Yaojiang
  • Rozelle, Scott


Abstract: Despite the rise in grade retention in China recently, little work has been done to understand the impact of grade retention on the educational performance of students in China. This paper seeks to redress this shortcoming and examines this impact on 1649 students in 36 elementary schools in Shaanxi province. With a dataset that was collected from a survey designed specifically to capture school performance of students before and after they were retained, we use Difference-in-Difference, Propensity Score Matching and Difference-in-Difference Matching approaches to analyze the effect of grade retention on school performance. Although the descriptive analysis shows that grade retention helps to improve the scores of the students that were retained, somewhat surprisingly, the results from the multivariate analysis consistently show that there is no significant positive effect of grade retention on school performance of the students. In fact, in some cases (e.g., for the students who repeat grade 2), grade retention is shown to hurt school performance.

Suggested Citation

  • Chen, Xinxin & Shi, Yaojiang & Rozelle, Scott, 2007. "Does Taking One Step Back Get You Two Steps Forward? Grade Retention and School Performance in Rural China," MPRA Paper 10917, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:10917

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. A. Smith, Jeffrey & E. Todd, Petra, 2005. "Does matching overcome LaLonde's critique of nonexperimental estimators?," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 125(1-2), pages 305-353.
    2. Rajeev H. Dehejia & Sadek Wahba, 2002. "Propensity Score-Matching Methods For Nonexperimental Causal Studies," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(1), pages 151-161, February.
    3. 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.
    4. Alberto Abadie, 2000. "Semiparametric Estimation of Instrumental Variable Models for Causal Effects," NBER Technical Working Papers 0260, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Alberto Abadie & Guido W. Imbens, 2006. "Large Sample Properties of Matching Estimators for Average Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(1), pages 235-267, January.
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    More about this item


    Educational economics; Human capital;

    JEL classification:

    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy


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