Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

N. 108 - High School Choices by Immigrant Students in Italy: Koray Aktas, Gianluca Argentin, Gian Paolo Barbetta, Gianna Barbieri and Luca V.A. Colombo


We investigate the educational choices of first- and second-generation immigrant students at the transition between lower-secondary school and high school by exploiting a large longitudinal dataset of about 50,000 students in Italy. We find that immigrant students are less likely to choose challenging academic track high schools compared with their Italian counterparts, after controlling for household characteristics, school fixed effects, and students’ performance. We show that systematic differences in teachers’ evaluations received by the two groups of students are an important driver of the observed differences in educational choices by immigrant and native students. In particular, after controlling for observable characteristics, we find that immigrant students are more likely to be formally advised by their teachers to choose vocational or technical high schools rather than academic tracks, reflecting a discrimination bias that has not previously been emphasized in the literature. This suggests the role of a new dimension of policy intervention aimed at reducing the possibility of teachers’ induced discrimination based on implicit stereotypes.

JEL codes: I21, I24, I26, I28.
Keywords: immigrant students, high school choice, academic track, discrimination biases, implicit stereotypes.
ISSN 2704-7407