Migrants vs Italian natives: A comparison of educational journeys
New research just published in the Journal of Applied Statistics examines the disparity of educational levels between Italian natives and migrants, exploring which contributes most: student performance or choice?
Migrant boats in the Mediterranean have dominated recent headlines. However, little attention has been given to some of the longer-term impacts of this recent migratory trend. This includes the educational opportunities for migrant children in comparison to that of their counterparts in Italy, a country at the forefront of the current “migrant crisis”. New research just published in the Journal of Applied Statistics examines the disparity of educational levels between Italian natives and migrants, exploring which contributes most: student performance or choice?
The authors of this study conducted a statistical analysis to determine the extent of primary vs. secondary effects on native-migrant education gaps in Italy. Primary effects for migrant children include language barriers and cultural differences, resulting in migrant children being less able to meet the educational demands expected for their age level. Secondary effects include parents being poorly informed about the educational opportunities available to their children, to the detriment of good decisions, educational investment and subsequent educational progression.
Past research has shown that – when allowing for socio-economic background – migrant children sustain a disadvantage, perform worse than native peers and are less likely to progress to tertiary education. To what extent is this due to low levels of previous academic attainment? Are poor assessment of labour market returns and hesitance to invest in further education responsible? The authors studied probability differences of nativity status, social background, prior performance and upper secondary school choices on 5,751 Italian students, 732 of whom were of immigrant origin. 76% of migrant students had working class parents in contrast to 28% of natives. The final exam grades of migrant secondary students were lower, and the probability of their choosing less challenging vocational courses twice as high as natives.
The research revealed that in many cases the educational gap is not accounted for by migrant students’ lower grades, but by different decision making processes. In some instances, comparisons of social backgrounds and performance show migrants to be more ambitious than natives. However, overall this study concludes that “results point to different decision rules between children of immigrants and natives that make the former more likely – given social background and prior performance – to enrol in school careers that prevent them access to tertiary education.” This effect is principally true for boys; girls’ shortened school careers are mainly due to poor performance. This is a likely reflection of gender interpretations stemming from traditionalist origin countries.
Ben Hudson, Engineering, Computer Science and Technology journals, Taylor & Francis
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