Children Who Repeated a Grade

Publication Date:

Dec 28, 2018

Key facts about children who repeated a grade

  • Since 1993, the percentage of children in the first through third grades who have repeated a grade has stayed relatively stable (4 to 6 percent); in 2016, the grade retention rate was 4.3 percent.
  • In 2016, Hispanic children were more likely than non-Hispanic white children to have repeated a grade in primary school, at 7 and 2 percent, respectively. Estimates for other racial/ethnic groups were unreliable in 2016.
  • In 2016, children in households with incomes at or below the federal poverty level were more likely to repeat a grade (8 percent) than those in households with higher incomes (3 percent).

Trends in children who repeated a grade

From 1993 to 2016, the percentage of first through third graders who had repeated a grade remained steady, from 4 to 6 percent. The 2016 figure of 4.3 percent was the lowest recorded (Appendix 1).

Note: Those children who repeated only kindergarten, or who delayed the start of kindergarten, are excluded as repeaters from all of these estimates.

Differences by race and Hispanic origin*

In 2016, Hispanic children were more likely than non-Hispanic white children to have repeated a grade in primary school, at 7 and 2 percent, respectively (Appendix 1).

*Hispanic students may be of any race.

Differences by parental educational attainment

Children whose parents have at least a bachelor’s degree are much less likely to repeat a grade than children whose parents have less education. In 2016, 1 percent of children with a parent holding a bachelor’s degree or higher repeated a grade, compared with 5 percent of children whose parents completed some college or a technical vocational degree (Appendix 1).

Differences by poverty and receipt of public assistance

Children in families who live in poverty are more likely to repeat a grade in primary school. In 2016, around 8 percent of children in households with incomes at or below the federal poverty level repeated a grade, compared with 3 percent of those in households with higher incomes (3 percent). Additionally, children living in households receiving SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps) or Medicaid benefits are more likely than those from households not receiving those benefits to have ever repeated a grade. In 2016, 10 percent of children receiving SNAP benefits in the last 12 months repeated a primary school grade, compared with 3 percent of children in households not receiving those benefits (Appendix 1).

Other estimates

State and local estimates

2016 state estimates for the percentage of children (ages 6 to 17) who have repeated a grade since starting kindergarten (not since first grade, as in this indicator) are available through the Data Resource Center for Child & Adolescent Health at http://www.childhealthdata.org/browse/survey/results?q=4745&r=1.

International estimates

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has published grade repetition rates at primary and secondary education levels for selected countries. For 2009–2015 estimates, see https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/9789264267510-en.pdf?expires=1538277894&id=id&accname=guest&checksum=5E288A194F7D1DED9282B970ACA20FCA (Figure II.1.3).

Data and appendices

Data source

Child Trends’ original analysis of data from the National Household Education Survey, 1993–2016.

Raw data source

U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Household Education Surveys Program.

http://nces.ed.gov/nhes/

Appendices

Appendix 1. Percentage of Children in Grades 1 through 3 Who Repeated a Grade: Select Years, 1993–2016

Background

Definition

This indicator includes children in first through third grades (or the equivalent if they are home-schooled, etc.).

These estimates include parents who answered “yes” when asked if their children had repeated any grade since first grade.

Suggested citation

Child Trends Databank. (2018). Children who repeated a grade. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=children-who-repeated-a-grade