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Gone for Good? Determinants of School Dropout in Southern Italy

  • O'Higgins, Shane Niall


    (CELPE (Centre of Labour Economics and Economic Policy), University of Salerno, Italy)

  • D'Amato, Marcello


    (CELPE (Centre of Labour Economics and Economic Policy), University of Salerno, Italy)

  • Caroleo, Floro Ernesto


    (Dipartimento di Studi Economici Universitàdegli Studi di Napoli Parthenope)

  • Barone, Adriana


    (CELPE (Centre of Labour Economics and Economic Policy), University of Salerno, Italy)

Dropping out of school has recently become an issue of major policy concern in Italy. A series of reforms of secondary school objectives, programmes and organizational design have been proposed to adapt the public school system to evolutions in the labour market and to increase overall educational attainment. The aim of the present paper is to gain some insight into the causes of dropping out of school and, more generally, of the factors that induce parents to review their choices about their child’s schooling careers. To this end we make use of data from the “school dropout survey” undertaken in Salerno Province by the Centre for Labour Economics and Economic Policy (CELPE). The survey collected a range of information on adolescent young people and their families over the period 2004-06. The paper proposes a model of sequential decision making by parents where the decision can be reviewed in the light of new information emerging about the ability and opportunities of the child in profiting from education relative to her outside (in the unskilled market). The model allows interpretation of such dropout and return behaviour and emphasises the separate role of economic capacity (opportunity costs) and cultural capacity (ability to disentangle signals about future opportunities) for equilibrium decision making. Analysis of the data confirms the role of both economic and cultural capacity of the family of origin in shaping observed choices about drop-out and return to school by individuals in our sample. Interestingly we find that whilst poor performance at, and low attachment to, school – measured by repetition of the school year through end of year failure and attendance records - is a key determinant of initial dropping out, the former does not seem to affect subsequent return to education. An important implication of the results presented here are that, in addition to the factors explicitly identified in the theoretical framework, dropping out behaviour is appears to be strongly influenced by mismatches between school and student. The answer to the question in the title of this paper, interpreted in its normative sense, therefore is no: the process of allocation of talents to school tracks is subject to many trial errors and revisions by families and many of those who leave school return to it subsequently.

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Paper provided by CELPE - Centre of Labour Economics and Economic Policy, University of Salerno, Italy in its series CELPE Discussion Papers with number 106.

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Length: 54 pages
Date of creation: 01 Jan 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:sal:celpdp:0106
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  1. James Heckman & Pedro Carneiro, 2003. "Human Capital Policy," NBER Working Papers 9495, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Daron Acemoglu & Joshua Angrist, 2001. "How Large are Human-Capital Externalities? Evidence from Compulsory-Schooling Laws," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2000, Volume 15, pages 9-74 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  5. Cardoso, Ana Rute & Verner, Dorte, 2006. "School Drop-Out and Push-Out Factors in Brazil: The Role of Early Parenthood, Child Labor, and Poverty," IZA Discussion Papers 2515, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  9. Oreopoulos, Philip, 2007. "Do dropouts drop out too soon? Wealth, health and happiness from compulsory schooling," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(11-12), pages 2213-2229, December.
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  11. Checchi, Daniele & Flabbi, Luca, 2007. "Intergenerational Mobility and Schooling Decisions in Germany and Italy: The Impact of Secondary School Tracks," IZA Discussion Papers 2876, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  12. Lance Lochner & Enrico Moretti, 2001. "The Effect of Education on Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates, Arrests, and Self-Reports," NBER Working Papers 8605, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  14. Dilip Mookherjee & Debraj Ray, 2000. "Persistent Inequality," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series dp-108, Boston University - Department of Economics, revised Oct 2002.
  15. Glenda Quintini & Sébastien Martin, 2006. "Starting Well or Losing their Way?: The Position of Youth in the Labour Market in OECD Countries," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 39, OECD Publishing.
  16. Eric A. Hanushek & Victor Lavy & Kohtaro Hitomi, 2006. "Do Students Care about School Quality? Determinants of Dropout Behavior in Developing Countries," NBER Working Papers 12737, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2002. "Identity and Schooling: Some Lessons for the Economics of Education," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(4), pages 1167-1201, December.
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