This paper examines the consequences of temporary emotional distress during a critical educational stage on children’s short and long-run academic outcomes. I exploit the quasi-random timing of unexpected grandparental death surrounding the transition to tracked secondary education in The Netherlands. I detect significant negative effects on standardized test performance and teachers’ track recommendation for distressed children. Consequently, these children have a higher probability to attend and graduate from the most outlook-restricted secondary school track. These findings highlight that a relatively short-lived instance of distress during a high-stakes transition can have lasting negative consequences for children’s educational career.
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