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Study Tracks the Intergenerational Effects of Job Loss

As if losing a job weren't bad enough in itself, a new study suggests that kids are 15 percent more likely to have to repeat a grade in school after a key breadwinning parent loses a job. The findings come in the form of a working paper posted last month on the Web site for the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Researchers Ann Huff Stevens and Jessamyn Schaller of the University of California, Davis, analyzed national survey data on 54,000 children that was collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in 1996, 2001, and 2004. Not surprisingly, the study finds that the hardest-hit families are those in which parents' highest level of education is high school or less.

These children are vulnerable on two counts. First, the data show that parents with less education are more likely than college-educated parents to suffer a job loss. Second, when job loss happens, these children are more likely than the children of more-educated parents to be retained the next school year. The researchers also point out that, in regions with high levels of unemployment, grade retentions could rise for entire schools and districts.

With the nation's unemployment rate at 10 percent, that's a bit of information worth considering—especially when schools are being held accountable for their students' achievement.

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