Gone for Good? Determinants of School Dropout in Southern Italy

Giornale degli Economisti, Vol. 66, No. 2, October 2007

39 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2007

See all articles by Niall O'Higgins

Niall O'Higgins

University of Salerno - Department of Economics; ILO; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Marcello D'Amato

University of Salerno - Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF)

Floro E. Caroleo

University of Naples Federico II; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Adriana Barone

Universita' degli Studi di Salerno (DISES); Centre of Labour Economics and Economic Policy (CELPE)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: september 2007

Abstract

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.

Keywords: young people, school dropout, human capital.

JEL Classification: I21, J13, J24

Suggested Citation

O'Higgins, Shane Niall and D'Amato, Marcello and Caroleo, Floro Ernesto and Barone, Adriana, Gone for Good? Determinants of School Dropout in Southern Italy (september 2007). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1028482

Shane Niall O'Higgins (Contact Author)

University of Salerno - Department of Economics ( email )

Via John Paul II, 132
Fisciano (SA), 84084
Italy

ILO ( email )

CH-1211 Geneva 22
Switzerland

HOME PAGE: http://www.ilo.org

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Marcello D'Amato

University of Salerno - Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF) ( email )

84084 Fisciano, Salerno
Italy
+39 089 962074 (Phone)
+39 089 962339 (Fax)

Floro Ernesto Caroleo

University of Naples Federico II ( email )

Via Amm. F. Acton, 38
80133 Naples, Caserta 80133
Italy
+39-081-5475740 (Phone)
+39-081-5474750 (Fax)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Adriana Barone

Universita' degli Studi di Salerno (DISES) ( email )

Via Giovanni Paolo II, 132
Fisciano, Salerno 84084
Italy

Centre of Labour Economics and Economic Policy (CELPE) ( email )

Università di Salerno
Via Giovanni Paolo II, 132
Fisciano, SA 84084
Italy

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