Seminar in Economics with Eliana la Ferrara
Research, Outreach, Seminar
2015-11-25 at 15:30
2015-11-25 at 16:45
Sveavägen 65, room 750
Eliana la Ferrara, Bocconi University
Shaping educational careers of immigrant children: motivation, cognitive skills and teachers' beliefs (joint with M. Carlana and P. Pinotti)
We study the educational choices of children of immigrants in a tracked school system. We first show that immigrants tend to choose vocational over more demanding curricula relative to native students with similar ability. The gap is greater for male students and it mirrors the differential in track recommendations received from teachers. We then estimate the impact of an innovative program that provided tutoring and career counseling to a random sample of immigrant children displaying high academic potential. We find that the program was successful in reducing educational segregation. Male students in treated schools have a 11 percentage points lower probability of failing and a 18 percentage points higher probability of attending an academic-oriented track, compared to immigrant students in control schools who started at a similar level of ability. The effects are in the same direction but 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. Male treated students display an improvement in cognitive and non-cognitive skills (academic motivation and perceived environmental barriers). Both effects seem to have been internalized by teachers, who recommended them for a more demanding high school. Changes in motivation explain a sizable portion of the effect on high school choice, while the effect of improved cognitive skills is negligible. Finally, we analyze the impact of the intervention on classmates. We find evidence of positive spillovers on immigrant peers of treated students, while there is no effect on natives.