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Shaping Educational Careers of Immigrant Children: Motivation, Cognitive Skills and Teachers’ Belief
We study the educational choices of immigrant children in Italy, where the schooling system is characterized by stratification. We first show that immigrants tend to choose less demanding tracks relative to native students with similar ability. The gap is greater for male students and it mirrors an analogous differential in failure rates. We then estimate the impact of a tutoring and career counselling program offered to a randomly chosen sample of immigrant children displaying high academic potential. We find that the program was successful in reducing educational segregation: male treated students have a 5.0 percentage point lower probability of failing and 12.4 percentage point higher probability of entering an academic-oriented track, compared with control students. The effects are smaller and not significant for girls. To shed light on the mechanisms underlying these effects, we collected data on standardized test scores and psychological traits. We show that changes in academic motivation and teachers’ suggestion induced by the treatment explain a sizable portion of the effect on the high-school choice, while the effect of cognitive skills is negligible. Finally, we find evidence of positive spillovers of the intervention on immigrant peers of treated students, while there is no effect on natives.
Michela Carlana is a PhD candidate in Economics at Bocconi University and she will be visiting Harvard University from August 2015 to May 2016. Her major field of research is Education Economics, with a strong interest on the impact of non-cognitive skills on life outcomes, while her minor field is Political Economy. She obtained a Master of Science and a Bachelor Degree in Economics at University of Padua. She was a visiting student at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and University of Glasgow.
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