No Bread-Winning Father? No Exit from Second Grade

The bread-winning father? For progressive thinkers, he’s an irrelevant anachronism—a laughable stereotype straight out of Ozzie and Harriet. Perhaps these progressive thinkers are not paying much attention to the well-being of children around the world. For children have suffered wherever bread-winning fathers have disappeared. The latest evidence that children pay the price when bread-winning fathers go missing comes from Spain, where a new study reveals that children without a breadwinning father in the home are much more likely to have to repeat a grade in school than are peers with such a father in the home. To be sure, it is not the bread-winning father but rather the grade-repeating elementary student who initially defines the primary concern for the Spanish researchers who recently completed an investigation of grade retention in Spain. Concerned about “its important costs for the educational systems and its relation with school dropout,” scholars at the Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria recently set out “to analyse which variables increase the probability of being retained in primary education”—focusing particularly on those variables that increase the likelihood that a student will have to repeat second or fourth grade. Their hope in carrying out this analysis is that “by knowing which analysed variables are related to grade retention, and how, we may offer some suggestions to reduce it.” To identify the variables that predict children’s having to repeat a grade in school, the authors of the new study scrutinize data collected in 2009 for 28,708 fourth-grade students in 874 schools, selected to represent Spain as a whole.  Generally, the patterns in the data were predictable. For instance, it is hardly surprising that being among the youngest members of a class increases the likelihood that a student will be held back a year—particularly in second grade. Also rather predictably, maternal education—or lack thereo
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