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Unfortunate Timing of Family Distress and Educational Outcomes

  • Location
    Erasmus University, Polak Building, Room 3-09
  • Date and time

    December 04, 2019
    12:00 - 13:00


This paper documents that losing a grandparent shortly before a high-stakes standardized track placement test can have long-lasting effects on child education outcomes. I employ administrative registers from the Netherlands, that allow me to exploit the quasi-random timing of death to causally identify the effect of pre-test grandparental bereavement on educational outcomes. The findings show that grandparental death leads to lower test outcomes, and to an increased likelihood of attending or graduating from the lowest track of secondary education. Having a teacher track recommendation in place does not offset the negative long-term effects. By contrast, the possibility to switch tracks later-on does seem to mitigate the negative impacts of grandparental death for some children. Overall, I show that even a relatively mild event of family distress can have lasting negative consequences in a context with high-stakes standardized testing, hampering equality of opportunity.