Is There an Educational Penalty for Being Suspended from School?

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 36/13

Date: 2013


Deborah A. Cobb-Clark
Sonja G. Kassenboehmer
Trinh Le
Duncan McVicar
Rong Zhang


Suspension from school is a commonly-used, yet controversial, school disciplinary measure. This paper uses unique survey data to estimate the impact of suspension on the educational outcomes of those suspended. It finds that while suspension is strongly associated with educational outcomes, the relationship is unlikely to be causal, but rather stems from differences in the characteristics of those suspended compared to those not suspended. Moreover, there is no evidence that suspension is associated with larger educational penalties for young people from disadvantaged family backgrounds compared to those from more advantaged family backgrounds. These results hold regardless of whether self-reported suspension or mother-reported suspension is considered. The absence of a negative causal impact of suspension on educational outcomes suggests that suspension may continue to play a role in school discipline without harming the educational prospects of those sanctioned.

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  • School suspension, school discipline, educational achievement, educational attainment, causal effect