Culture and the Family: An Application to Educational Choices in Italy

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1 Culture and the Famly: An Applcaton to Educatonal Choces n Italy Saggo ad Invto per la Rvsta d Poltca Economca July 2009 Paola Gulano UCLA, NBER, and IZA Abstract In ths essay we revew the assocaton between the mportance of famly tes n a socety and a seres of economc ndcators. We then examne n detals the mportance of the famly n nfluencng educatonal choces n Italy, a country wth very strong famly tes. The results ndcate that famly background s crucal n determnng the choce of hgh school n Italy. It s the choce of hgh school that then determnes subsequent academc performance. The evdence suggests that graduatng from a general hgh school ncreases the probablty of attendng unversty, whereas no effect can be found for famly background. The fact that the majorty of students wth a poor famly background tend to go to techncal schools, followng famly suggestons, has an mpact n prolongng the low level of educatonal moblty and leadng to a low rate of college graduates n Italy. JEL Classfcaton Numbers: Z10, Z13 Keywords: culture, famly tes, educatonal choces Authors E-mal address:

2 1. Introducton The role of culture as an mportant factor that shapes economc actvty has attracted enormous attenton n recent years. It has become ncreasngly clear that cultural norms, those customary belefs and values that ethnc, relgous, and socal groups transmt farly unchanged from generaton to generaton (Guso et al. 2006) are crucal n explanng gender dfferentals n labor partcpaton (Antecol 2000), household lvng arrangements (Gulano 2007), women s work behavor and fertlty choces (Fernandez and Fogl 2009; Alesna and Gulano 2007), preferences for redstrbuton (Luttmer et al. 2009), economc development n the regons of Europe (Tabelln 2008) and trade (Guso et al. (2008)). In ths essay we revew the role of one partcular cultural aspect of a socety: the strength of famly tes, showng ts mportance n determnng a large varety of economc outcomes and atttudes. Furthermore, we analyze n detals how the famly can play a crucal role n determnng educatonal choces n Italy, a country wth partcularly strong famly tes. Whle the emphass on cultural aspects s farly new n economcs, mostly for the dffculty assocated wth ts measurement and for ssues related to causalty, poltcal scentsts and socologsts have extensvely studed the mportance of cultural norms and of the soco-economc role of the famly. Todd (1990) noted strong patterns of famly structures, wth clear regonal varatons and persstence over tme, and lnked them to sgnfcant socal and economc outcomes. Banfeld (1958) dentfed amoral famlsm as one of the man causes of Southern Italy s underdevelopment, and Putnam (1993) and Fukuyama (1995) emphaszed how the lack of recprocal trust, typcal of strong famly tes socetes, s detrmental to development. Gambetta (1990) shows how a crtcal characterstc of mafa famles s that one can trust only famly members and that the mafa famly structure enforces trust n a socety lackng t. Espng-Andersen (1999) has also argued that dfference n welfare systems and employment across dfferent European countres can be traced back to dfferent famly structures. Famlstc socetes are characterzed by the malebread wnner and female housewfe model, the famly s also seen as the nsttuton able to nternalze socal rsk by poolng resources across generatons as opposed to the state and the market. Reer (1998) argues that belefs regardng the respect for parents are normally assocated wth specfc forms of lvng arrangements; smlarly geographc moblty s lmted as young people tend to lve around ther famly nest. Coleman (1988) argues that famly tes can facltate or nhbt socal actons. On the one hand, the young generaton receves

3 support from the old one; on the other hand, ths sense of belongng to a small communty can nhbt ndvdual nnovaton and openness to new deas n general. Economsts have also noted how n developng countres, especally n Afrca, extended famly lnks have substtuted for mssng credt markets, as dscussed for nstance n La Ferrara (2003); there s also a large lterature on the relatonshp between famly-controlled frms and nsttutons (La Porta, Lopez-de-Slanes and Shlefer, 199); and on the relatonshp between famly structure, nhertance norms and the performance of famly busnesses (Perez-Gonzales, 2004). Bentollla and Ichno (2006) study how countres wth dfferent famly tes (namely Italy and Span wth strong famly tes, the US and the UK wth weaker tes) cope wth unemployment shocks, fndng that stronger famly tes provde more nsurance. The ntuton provded by the socologcal lterature, has been comprehensvely emprcally analyzed by Alesna and Gulano (2007). The authors combne three questons taken from the World Value Survey 1 to defne a varable summarzng the strength of famly tes. Ths ndcator combnes belefs on the mportance of the famly n an ndvdual s lfe, the dutes and responsbltes of parents and chldren and the love and respect for one s own parents 2. The authors show that n famles wth strong tes there s more relance on home producton and less partcpaton n market actvtes, especally n the case of youngsters and women. In partcular, the role of women n the famly and n socety s dfferent. Strong famly tes mply a strcter dvson of labor wth the male workng n the market and the female workng at home performng a varety of servces, probably ncludng mantanng famly tes strong. Consstent wth ths, the authors fnd lower female educaton and labor force partcpaton n strong famly tes socetes. 1 The World Value Survey (WVS) s a complaton of natonal surveys on values and norms on a wde varety of topcs, carred out four tmes ( , , and ). The authors use the fourth wave, whch covers the largest set of countres (81). 2 The frst queston n partcular assesses how mportant the famly s n one person s lfe and can take values from 1 to 4 (wth 1 beng very mportant and 4 not mportant at all). The second queston asks whether the respondent agrees wth one of the two statements (takng the values of 1 and 2 respectvely : 1) Regardless of what the qualtes and faults of one s parents are, one must always love and respect them; 2) One does not have the duty to respect and love parents who have not earned t. The thrd queston prompts respondents to agree wth one of the followng statements (agan takng the values of 1 or 2 respectvely): It s the parents duty to do ther best for ther chldren even at the expenses of ther own well-beng. 2) Parents have a lfe of ther own and should not e asked to sacrfce ther own well beng for the sake of ther chldren. The authors combne the three questons takng ther prncpal components.

4 Snce strong famly tes produce socal nsurance, less s needed from the government. In addton, famly tes and the nsurance that they provde can work only f extended famles lve close to each other. Consstently wth ths story, the authors fnd less preferences for redstrbuton for ndvduals wth strong famly tes and less geographcal moblty. Consstently wth the amoral famlsm vew of Banfeld, the authors document a strong negatve assocaton between trust n the famly and socal captal, as measured by generalzed trust. Strong famly tes are by no mean assocated wth only economc bads on all grounds. The authors, ndeed, fnd that there s a trade-off between partcpaton n market actvtes wth ther ups and downs and uncertanty and happness or lfe satstacton. The authors do a careful analyss tryng to establsh causalty and fndng a correspondence between mmgrants and country of orgn behavor. Ths duplcaton of the same outcomes between the country of orgn and a varety of destnaton countres pont out to the mportance of the strength of famly tes as an mportant cultural trat of a country 3. In ths paper, we look at how the famly can affect educatonal choces n Italy, a country wth very strong famly tes. The paper s structured as follows: n Secton 2 we dscuss the mportance of the famly n determnng educatonal choces n Italy. In Secton 3 we revew the lterature on educatonal choces. In Secton 4, we present evdence that supports the vew that low moblty s due to the wrong choce of hgh school from students comng from poor famles. In the ffth secton we conclude. 2. The mportance of the famly for educatonal choces n Italy In ths secton we wll dscuss a possble mplcaton of the strength of the famly on educatonal choces n Italy. The fracton of college graduates s much lower n Italy compared to the US. Moreover ntergeneratonal moblty n ncome and schoolng shows much greater persstence n Italy than n the US. The phenomenon s partcularly puzzlng, gven that the Italan school system s centralzed and provdes the same qualty of educaton to everybody, regardless of ncome. Human captal nvestment and upward moblty should then be hgher n Italy than n the US, where the educatonal system s decentralzed, fnanced at the local level and wth a sgnfcant fracton of students n prvate schools. 3 The authors look not only at mmgrants n the US but also at mmgrants n 32 dfferent destnaton countres.

5 What s responsble for the low Italan educatonal moblty? Prevous research (Checch, Ichno and Rustchn, 1999) has argued that the Italan schoolng system mght have faled to provde poor famles wth the ncentves to nvest n the human captal of ther offsprng. A decentralzed and prvate system, the authors clam, does a better job n rasng the return to schoolng, thereby makng the nvestment n human captal more attractve to poor famles even f more costly. The Italan publc unversty system does not offer a real opportunty for chldren of lower ncome famles to emerge and keep the returns of ther educatonal nvestment. We propose a dfferent reason for low educatonal moblty n Italy. We argue that poor famles do not take advantage of the possblty of nvestng n human captal, despte the low cost offered by a publc system, not because returns to educaton are low, but because famles wth low educaton are unaware of the value of educaton. Fathers wth low educaton, we suggest, tend to send ther chldren to techncal and vocatonal schools, because they perceve ths level of educaton as an mprovement compared to ther own level and n any case suffcent to guarantee ther chldren a decent job. Gven the strength of famly tes n Italy, chldren follow ther famly s suggeston at frst, though they later may decde to nvest n educaton and go to college. The wrong ntal choce of hgh school, however, affects the lkelhood of completng college. Obtanng a college degree s obvously more dffcult for vocatonal school students, who are not suffcently prepared to take college classes, than for general hgh school students. Thus famly background acts as a renforcng mechansm n perpetuatng low educatonal moblty. The trend s amplfed by the fact that n Italy only 5 years of schoolng were compulsory untl 1962; the fracton of fathers wth only a prmary school degree s extremely hgh compared to the US. Ths paper wll shed some lght on the extent to whch the famly n Italy could affect the choce of hgh school. The ntal famly nfluence on the choce of a hgh school track wll then affect access to hgher educaton and academc performance. Usng survey data on a cohort of hgh school graduates we estmate the mpact of famly background on the choce of hgh school and also the mpact of hgh school type (general versus techncal) on academc performance. Our emprcal analyss provdes evdence that supports our basc ntuton- the hypothess that moblty s low because chldren choose the wrong type of hgh school, makng college completon more dffcult. The probablty of choosng general hgh school

6 s postvely and sgnfcantly correlated wth fathers educaton. Even after controllng for factors such as grades n mddle school as a measure of ndvdual talent, we fnd that havng a father wth a low level of educaton reduces the probablty of gong to the general hgh school by more than 50%. There s the further lnk between choce of hgh school type and subsequent academc performance n college. As a measure of academc performance we use the average number of exams passed. The probablty of completng college s more closely related to the type of hgh school attended than to father s educaton. We do beleve that t s the choce of hgh school, rather than famly background, to determne success n college and rate of dropout. Once talented chldren from poor famles choose the rght type of hgh school, ther chances of college completon wll be not very dfferent from chldren comng from rch famles. If famly tes are so relevant n the choce of hgh school, the polcy mplcaton could be farly mportant. If our hypothess ndeed descrbes realty, a prvatzaton of tertary educaton would make t more dffcult and costly for talented poor chldren to obtan a college degree, wth lttle mpact on the chldren of the rch. Increasng nformaton on the value of educaton among poor famles would be the crucal strategy. A man concern n Italy s the long duraton of unversty studes, so that studyng the mpact of hgh school choces on the number of exams passed wll yeld nsght on an ssue at the core of Italan educatonal polces. 3. Lterature Revew The choce of general versus techncal or vocatonal hgh school has been lttle explored n economcs, perhaps not surprsngly, gven that most of the research has been done n the US, where hgh schools are more homogeneous n that respect than n other countres. There are some papers for Europe. Evdence for Germany ndcates that famly ncome plays a lmted role n determnng the probablty of attendng general hgh schools, other factors such as parental educaton beng more relevant (see, Buchel et al., 2001, and Jenkns and Schluter, 2002). A strong assocaton between secondary school track choce and parental educaton n Germany has been found also by Dustmann (2001), but wthout controllng for parental ncome. For France, Margols and Smonnet (2002) show that

7 techncal hgh school graduates outperform graduates of general hgh schools n the schoolto-work transton, because they can access more effectve labor market networks. Socologsts, on the other hand, have been devotng a lot of attenton to choce of hgh school and school-to-work transton ssues. The classc work of Paul Wlls (1977) s an authortatve account of workng class responses to schoolng n general. Though hs deas were orgnally developed from research n a very dfferent context- the Englsh Mdlands n the md 1970s- they have nspred a generaton of school ethnographes n the US (Everhart 1983, MacLeod 1987, McLaren 1986, Eckert 1989, Wess 1990, Gaskell 1985 and Tanner 1990). Wlls famous thess conssts of two elements. Frst s hs expectaton of class dspartes n educaton: workng-class school falure s due not only to the bases of the educatonal system, but also due to workng-class nsubordnaton n school. Informal peer groups are clamed to subvert school-sponsored aspratons. Wlls assumes that hs Hammertown lads learn n ther local envronment -famly, neghborhood, peer group- a dscrete culture that clashes wth a mddle class orented school system. Ths s sad to actvate a rebellon characterzed by dsnterest n school and troubled relatons wth teachers, thereby leadng to poor grades and streamng nto non-academc tracks. Workngclass kds get workng-class jobs by developng rebellous subcultures and condemnng themselves to educatonal falure. The ncluson of socologcal elements n the choce of hgh school s crucal, n our vew, to understand the problem, however our nterpretaton s slghtly dfferent from Wlls thess. In our vew, the relatonshp between class and subculture s dfferent n Italy than n Brtan. We do beleve that class dentty of Italan workng class youth nsulates students from nternalzng educatonal aspratons n the frst place. School falure renforces ther humble expectatons, whle school success can cause them reorent the path pre-assgned to them by workng-class fathers. Workng-class students nternalze ther fathers vew. Workng-class fathers hold a more vocatonal frame of reference, whch buttresses ther antpathy towards the student role and leads them to devalue school for ts rrelevance to ther perceved future n manual employment (probably ths orentaton s also nformed by a pessmstc vew of the economc stuaton).

8 The second part of our analyss wll look at how academc performance n college s affected by dfferental school paths. The lterature on the evaluaton of school type effects on measures of performance s rcher. For example, the mpact of Catholc schools on academc performance has receved consderable attenton n the Unted States. Evans and Schwab (1995) hghlght the endogenety ssues that can arse from self-selecton of students nto catholc schools and use nstrumental varables to dentfy the effect of catholc school attendance on measures of academc success, concludng that catholc schools rase subsequent educatonal outcomes. Neal (1997) uses area-level measures of catholc schools avalablty as nstruments for school choce, showng that the benefts of catholc schools are confned to urban mnortes, possbly as a consequence of the low qualty of avalable publc schools. An nstrumental varable procedure s employed by Fglo and Stone (1999) to assess the effect of relgous and non-relgous prvate schools on educatonal outcomes, fndng that, n general, only the former ncrease ndvdual outputs relatve to publc schools. The methodologcal approach developed by Altonj et al. (2000) s nstead based on the use of observable nformaton as a way of reducng endogenety bas. Ther approach to estmaton s based on the dea of usng the degree of selecton on observables as a gude to how much selecton there s on the unobservable. They use ther method to estmate the effect of attendng a Catholc hgh school on a varety of outcomes. They fnd that catholc schools are effectve n favorng hgh school completon and college attendance, whle the effect on test scores s less evdent. Recently, researchers nterest on the effect of school choces have also started spreadng onto other spheres of human lfe: an example s Fglo and Ludwg (2000), who look at the effect of catholc school attendance on youths crme, drug abuse and sexual actvty, fndng that catholc schools are effectve n reducng all three. As for the specfc Italan stuaton, the man ssue emergng s a strong ntergeneratonal persstence n educatonal achevement. Checch et al. (1999) have found less ntergeneratonal moblty n ncomes and schoolng n Italy than n the US. They argue that the Italan schoolng system has faled to provde poor famles wth ncentves to nvest n human captal. Wth a sample of students at the Unversty of Mlan, Bertola and Checch (2001) fnd that those comng from general hgh schools score better n a range of performance ndcators than comparable students from other schools. They also study the dfferences n academc performance between publc and prvate schools. They fnd that publc schools are

9 assocated wth better performance than prvate schools. Student from relgous prvate schools performed better than lay prvate schools. The mportance of hgh school types for academc performance s confrmed by Boero et al. (2001). In a sample of Italan college graduates the fnal graduaton marks are sgnfcantly lower for techncal hgh school graduates than for general hgh school graduates. A theoretcal perspectve on the optmal school desgn s provded by Brunello and Gannn (2000), who showed that the desrablty of educatonal stratfcaton cannot be unambguously drawn from an effcency pont of vew. 4. Emprcal Analyss Ths secton provdes evdence for the basc mechansm dscussed n Secton 2. We start showng some evdence on ntergeneratonal moblty n Italy and the US. Fgure 1 shows the probablty of havng a college degree, gven four levels of father s educaton (father wth elementary school or less-5 years or less of educaton; father wth mddle school- 8 years or less of educaton; fathers wth hgh school; and fathers wth college degree). Comparng Italy wth the US, the probablty of obtanng a college degree for Italans s lower only for the sons of fathers wth elementary degrees or lower. For sons of fathers wth mddle school or hgh school, the probablty s hgher for Italy; fnally the probablty s smlar for chldren whose father has a college degree. In 2000, accordng to the Survey of Income and Wealth for Italan households, 80% of male heads of households n Italy have at most an elementary degree; n the US the comparable fracton s 10%. Ths huge dfference n the dstrbuton of educatonal attanment s partally related to the fact that compulsory educaton n the US s at least 10 years. In Italy, only 5 years of schoolng were compulsory untl After 1962, a reform extended the number of years of compulsory educaton to eght. Only towards the end of 1970s eght years of compulsory educaton became the norm n Italy. Accordng to a more detaled classfcaton of levels of educaton of fathers, we found that ntergeneratonal moblty s low only for the lowest educated fracton of the populaton (Fgure 1). Overall college attanment s 16% lower n Italy than n the US. The dfference n college attanment n Italy and US per father s educaton can be decomposed n the followng way: α f α ' f ' = ( α α ') f + ( f f ') α Δf Δα

10 where α and α ' s the fracton of students gong to college for a certan educaton of fathers n Italy and the US, and f and f ' s the fracton of father wth a certan educaton (we dstngush between 5 years or less of educaton, between 6 and 8 years of educaton, hgh school completed and college). The decomposton smply allows us to see f the dfference n ntergeneratonal moblty s drven by low college attanment or smply by a dfferent composton of the populaton, specfcally father s educaton (the second term). In our case we found that almost all the dfference n college attanment s drven by the second term (-16%=-4%-18%+6%). The lower Italan ntergeneratonal moblty depends almost completely on the hgh fracton of low educated fathers n Italy. Our fundamental hypothess s that low moblty n Italy s drven by a wrong hgh school track and that a student s probablty of choosng a certan type of hgh school s affected, n turn, by famly background, regardless of ndvdual talent. Students wth poor famly background get trapped n the wrong track because of famly suggestons. In order to test ths hypothess, deally we would lke to see how the decson of a chld would change, f he had the possblty of modfyng hs choces, gven a new set of nformaton regardng college degree. Accordng to our hypothess, poor people should modfy ther choces more frequently, snce there are a lot of them who wanted to go to the general hgh school but they could not because of famly nfluence. Snce t s mpossble to perform such a controlled experment, we wll use some evdence from dfferent sources. As a frst set of evdence we look (unfortunately only at the aggregate level, snce mcro data are not avalable) at the change n enrollment rate to college, after a reform of educaton that took place n Italy n Before 1969, only students comng from general hgh schools could go to college; after the reform, students from any knd of hgh school could enroll n college. Ths reform s a sort of natural experment, whch allows us to evaluate the change n college attendance for students who were attendng hgh school durng the reform: those chldren were supposed to decde at age 14 whether they wanted to go to college or not. Students comng from poor famles, and usually attendng vocatonal and techncal schools, should change ther mnd more frequently because when they decded about hgh school, they dd not have enough nformaton on the value of educaton tself and were merely followng fathers suggeston. We should then observe, after the reform, an

11 ncrease n college attendance for students from low educaton famles, compared to students from hgh educaton famles, who usually attend general hgh schools. In the second part of the analyss, we would lke to nvestgate the effect of famly background on chldren s decson of choosng a partcular type of hgh school and consequently of completng college. Ths second part s based on two regressons. In the frst we analyze whether father s educaton affects the probablty of choosng a certan type of hgh school. We show that famly background has a strong mpact on the lkelhood that a student comng out of mddle school chooses a general hgh school even after controllng for student s talent and varous other varables. The second regresson examnes the relatonshp between the probablty of completng college and the type of hgh school attended. We fnd that the probablty of completng college s very smlar for students wth dfferent famly background, who attended the rght type of hgh school, ndcatng that a publcly funded system cannot be blamed for the low level of college attendance or for hgh dropout rates. The effect of father s educaton s qute small and/or nsgnfcant n ths fnal stage, whereas t s crucal n the frst stage of chldren choce Data We shall use a cross-sectonal survey on educatonal and job paths of students fnshng hgh school (Indagne su percors d studo e lavoro de dplomat), conducted by the Italan Natonal Insttute of Statstcs (ISTAT) both n 1998 and The goal of the survey s to analyze educatonal and labor market outcomes of students, three years after they completed hgh school. 2 The choce of conductng the survey three years after the end of hgh school s crucal for our purposes, because t allows us to look at dropout rates and academc performance accordng to hgh school type and famly background. The samples for 2001 and 1998 have and observatons, respectvely, and respondents are asked about educatonal choce after hgh school, demographc, and labor market outcomes. Informaton on famly background (ncludng educaton of parents) was also collected. 1 We shall use manly the 2001 survey, snce t contans more nformaton regardng number of exams n college, year of enrollment n college, whch wll be especally useful for the second part of the emprcal analyss. For the frst part of the emprcal analyss, for whch both samples are compatble, we report n the appendx the results of the regresson for 1998 and of the pooled regresson for the two years. Our results dd not change. 2 Snce the survey has been conducted n 2001, the sample conssts of people who completed hgh school n 1998.

12 Our hypothess s that belongng to a partcular famly, ndependent of talent, affects student s choce of hgh school. For ths purpose, we need nformaton on the fnal grade at the end of mddle school, and father s educaton of students gong to vocatonal versus general hgh schools. We decded to look at the fnal grade at the end of mddle school versus father s level of educaton, because t could be that there may be no such thng as famly nfluence. It could smply be that those who decded to go to general hgh school are those who are smarter and more academcally nclned. The Italan hgh school system may be broadly descrbed by three types of schools: - vocatonal dploma: t s a vocatonal tranng school certfcate; t provdes job-specfc educaton (manly for sklled blue-collar jobs) - techncal dploma: t s a techncal school certfcate; t provdes a techncal educaton (manly for non-graduate whte-collar jobs, such as accountancy). - lceo; t s a hgh school certfcate preparng students manly for a unversty educaton. It specalzes students ether n scentfc studes lceo scentfco or n classcal studes lceo classco. Our dependent varable s captured by an ndcator varable (Lceo) that s equal to one f students attended general school and s equal to zero otherwse. As a proxy for performance n mddle school we use two dummy ndcators, one f the student receved the hghest possble grade, Hghest grade, one f the student receved the lowest possble grade, Lowest Grade (we excluded the ntermedate grade). At the end of mddle school students receve a fnal mark: suffcente, comparable to C n the US, buono, the equvalent of B, dstnto the equvalent of B+/A-, and ottmo, the equvalent of A/A+. We defned as lowest grade students, the ones who reported suffcente and as hghest grade students, the one who reported ottmo. The excluded group s gven by students wth buono o dstnto as fnal mark. As for famly background we use two dummy ndcators for father s level of educaton, one f the father holds a mddle school or lower degree and one f the father holds a college degree (the excluded group s father wth hgh school degree). We control for several characterstcs that could possbly nfluence the choce of hgh school such as the regon n whch the student was lvng (South and Center), the number of sblngs present n the households (Chldren), a female dummy.

13 The summary statstcs for our sample are presented n Table 2. The fracton of students wth the hghest grade n mddle school s 21%. More than 50% of the sample have fathers whose level of educaton s mddle school or lower; only 9% of students have a father wth a college degree. The fracton of students gong to hgh school s equal to 33%; a more detaled classfcaton of the types of hgh schools attended s reported n Table 3. Table 4 descrbes the type of hgh school attended as a functon of father s educaton. Note that havng a father wth a college degree ncreases the probablty of a student gong to lceo from 20.8% (f the father has mddle school or less) to 79.1%. Table 5 descrbes the type of hgh school attended as a functon of the fnal grade n mddle school. Havng the hghest grade n mddle school ncreases the probablty of gong to lceo from 12.1% to 68.1%. Lastly, Tables 6 and 7 descrbe the choce of hgh school as a functon of father s educaton as well as fnal grade n mddle school. For talented students, havng a father wth college degree ncreases the probablty of gong to lceo from 55% to 92.9%. A very hgh fracton of students wth very low grade n mddle school stll go to the general hgh school, f the father has a hgh level of educaton: f fathers have a college degree, 43% of students wth the lowest grade go to the general hgh school, whle the fracton s equal to only 2% for students wth a poor famly background. The second part of our emprcal analyss examnes the relatonshp between academc performance and type of hgh school attended. We are nterested n evaluatng academc performance n college, measured as number of exams passed, for students wth dfferent famly background and comng from dfferent types of hgh school. Table 8 descrbes the summary statstcs for our sample. It shows that 41.2% of hgh school graduates attend unversty three years after graduaton, whle 54% are not enrolled at all. The dstrbuton changes a lot wth the type of hgh school attended and famly background. The proporton halves among techncal school graduates and doubles among general hgh school graduates, revealng a strong lnk between the type of degree held and transton to unversty. Among students who went to the general hgh school, only 10% are not enrolled n any type of degree. In contrast the percentage s 68% and 86.4% respectvely, f the hgh school s techncal or vocatonal. As for famly background the fracton of students enrolled n college doubles f the father has a college degree and almost halves f the father has a low educatonal degree (Table 9). The combnaton of hgh school attendance and famly background s also nterestng (Table 10); for students who attended general hgh

14 school, f the father has a college degree, 93% enroll n college, the fracton declnes to 79% f father has mddle school educaton or less. Smlarly among students who attended techncal school, f the father has a college degree, the fracton enrolled n college s 50%, whle declne to 22% f the father has eght years of educaton or less. Among students who are not enrolled n 1998, 90% never enrolled n any type of college degree, whle 8.7% dropped out of college (Table 11). Among students comng from general hgh schools, 59.8% never enrolled n college, whle the percentage ncreases to 90.7% and 94.8% for techncal and vocatonal schools respectvely. Famly background s also mportant n determnng enrollment n college. If fathers have a mddle school degree or less, the fracton of people not enrolled n college s 66.5%, whle t s only 13.8% f fathers have a college degree (Table 12). All ths evdence reveals a strong lnk between type of degree held and transton to unversty. Fnally we looked at the educatonal levels of fathers for students graduated from college, dstngushng between students who went to general hgh school and students who went to techncal schools. For ths descrptve analyss we use the survey on job paths of college graduates (Insermento professonale de laureat dell anno 1995, Indagne 1998). The survey, conducted by the Italan Natonal Insttute of Statstcs, s a seres of cross sectons collected n The goal of the survey s to analyze labor market outcomes of students, three years after they completed college. The sample for 1998 (the year we use) conssts of observatons, and respondents are asked about demographc, labor market outcomes and famly background. Among students graduated from college n 1995, 60% have a general hgh school degree. It s nterestng to analyze famly background for students who went to general hgh school and not. The fracton of fathers wth a college degree s equal to 32% f students attended a general hgh school, whereas ths fracton s equal to 11% for students who went to techncal school (Table 12). Ths evdence ndcates that among college graduates, students who went to techncal hgh school and then college come prmarly from low educated famles Results Ths secton reports the results of our probt analyss and some tme seres evdence on choce of hgh school. We show that even controllng for other characterstcs that mght

15 nfluence the choce of hgh school, students comng from poor famles are more lkely to go to vocatonal and techncal schools. Havng a father well educated ncreases the probablty of gong to lceo by 36 percentage ponts. Fgure 2 shows the prelmnary evdence on the mportance of famly background n the choce of hgh school. The graph represents the number of students enrolled n college by dfferent types of hgh school, from 1953 untl There has been a huge ncrease n 1969 (the year of the reform) n the number of students enrolled n frst year of college comng from vocatonal and techncal schools ( others n the graph). The graph should be an ndcaton of the number of people who chose to go to vocatonal or techncal school as a result of famly nfluence and dscovered the value of educaton later on. From Fgure 2, t s possble to see that there was a huge ncrease n the three years followng the reform, for students who attended techncal or vocatonal school. If students chose hgh school on the bass of ther talent, then the ncrease over tme n college attendance should be very smlar between the two groups. We do beleve that the dfference n the ncrease between the two groups represents a measure of the number of low background students who decded to go to techncal hgh school just because famly mposes them the choce. The ncrease represents.e. the number of students who wanted to go to general hgh school but could not and changed ther mnd later on. The data on enrollment to college over tme are only at the macro-level. At the mcro-level, we start by estmatng a probt model for whether chldren choose the best hgh school as a functon of famly background or ther talent, controllng for a set of characterstcs. The probt specfcaton adopted s the followng: L α HE + ε f = 0 + α1 X + α 2HG + α 3LG + α 4LE + α 5 f where the dependent varable L s an ndcator varable that s equal to one f the student attended the general hgh school ( lceo ) and zero otherwse. HG and LG are two ndcator varables, equal to one f the student receved respectvely the hghest/lowest possble fnal grade n mddle school (students wth ntermedate grade are the excluded f f group). HE and LE are two ndcator varables, equal to one f father s educaton s college or mddle school and less, respectvely (the excluded group s gven by fathers wth a

16 dploma). X s a vector of control varables, ncludng geographc areas dummes (south and mddle, north s the excluded group), number of sblngs n the famly and a female dummy. We fnd (Table 14) that the probablty that the student goes to lceo s sgnfcantly related to both talent (measured by fnal grades n mddle school) and famly background. Havng a father wth college degree ncreases the probablty of gong to lceo by 34 percentage ponts, whereas havng the hghest grade n mddle school ncreases the probablty of gong to the general hgh school by 35%. Sgnfcant are the number of sblngs n the household (negatve effect) and a female dummy (negatve effect). We next turn to our analyss of the relatonshp between academc performance and famly background. We nvestgate to what extent academc performance (measured as average number of exams passed) s a result of ndvdual talent, educatonal background (gven by the type of hgh school attended) and famly background. Table 15 shows the results of the regresson for the average number of exams passed. We use the Heckman correcton for ths regresson to address the sample selecton bas. The analyss of average number of exams passed can only be performed condtonal on unversty attendance. People attendng collage mght be a selected part of the populaton. In that case standard OLS regresson would results nto a based coeffcent. The drecton of the bas depends on the type of selecton. If, for example, only the very talented students from poor famles manage to enroll nto a unversty program, the coeffcent of the dummy ndcatng poor famly background n the equaton of number of exams passed could underestmate the effect of comng from a dsadvantaged famly background. A standard way to correct for ths selecton bas s to correct the exam equaton wth the probablty of partcpaton nto a college program. Ths procedure faces serous dentfcaton problems f the exam and the selecton equatons nclude the same explanatory varables. A possble way out s the assumpton that errors term of the two equatons are dstrbuted as a bvarate normal densty. In ths case the correcton would amount to nclude nto the exam equaton the nverse of the mlls rato, and the dentfcaton s acheved exclusvely relyng exclusvely on the non lnearty mpled n the mlls rato. A more robust strategy would be one n whch one can thnk of varables that shft the partcpaton probablty wthout nfluencng the number of exams passed. In the sprt of Card (1993), we use a proxy of college avalablty n the area of resdence as a shfter of the probablty to enroll n college. In other study that

17 uses the same dataset (Cappellar, 2003), the endogenety ssue s assessed by means of multvarate probt models. The author uses as an nstrument for general hgh school choces a dummy for havng a grandparent wth a unversty degree, and as an nstrument for selecton nto the unversty dummes for the number of sblngs n the household of orgn. We use regonal dummes as dentfyng varables for the selecton equaton 4. Surprsngly, the regresson coeffcents do not dffer greatly between the OLS and the Heckman regresson, also the Wald test ndcates that selectvty s not a bg problem. However hs mght be an ndcaton that our nstruments are weak. The results confrm our hypothess. Whle type of hgh school attended and ndvdual talent have large and sgnfcant mpact on the performance n college (as one would expect), famly background does not appear to nfluence performance n college, but t s crucal for enrollment. 5 Ths provdes further confrmaton that the lnkage between famly background and educaton operates va the choce of the type of hgh school rather than later on va a low return of tertary educaton. Students belongng to a poor famly do not obtan a hgh level of educaton, not because tertary educaton does not guarantee them hgh returns of educaton, but because they choose the wrong type of hgh school at an early stage. If students wth a poor famly background choose a general hgh school, they have the same academc performance of students wth a hghly educated famly. 5. Conclusons The lnk between culture, as defned by the strength of famly tes, and socoeconomc outcomes deserve attenton. We revew recent lterature on the mportance of the strength of famly tes on economc outcomes. We also study the nfluence that the famly can have n determnng educatonal choces n a country n whch famly tes are very strong: Italy. We started out by posng the queston about the factors that can explan the low level of educatonal moblty n Italy, a country n whch the publc system of educaton should guarantee a hgher level of moblty compared to a prvate system, lke the one exstent n the US. 4 The dependent varable of our selecton equaton s a dummy for beng enrolled n college, we control for the same varables present n the Heckman equaton, plus a dummy for students who dropped college (and for whom we do not have nformaton about the number of exams passed). 5 The model s robust to other specfcatons n whch we ncluded mother educaton and professon of both parents.

18 Our evdence suggests that, once poor chldren go to general hgh schools, they are as successful as students from rch famles. Famly background s nstead crucal for the choce of hgh school, draggng many talented students nto the wrong type of hgh school, reducng the probablty of gong to college at a later stage. The hgh school choces of young Italans largely depend on two factors: famly background and ablty. Ths paper has shown that ndvduals wth well educated fathers tend to select nto general hgh schools. Ths paper has also provded evdence on the effects of hgh school choces on subsequent academc performance. Graduatng from a general hgh school ncreases the probablty of attendng unversty, whereas no effect can be found for famly background. Once at unversty, the performance depends crucally on general hgh school attendance and personal ablty. Some nterestng polcy ssues emerge mmedately from the analyss. The effectveness of resources for educaton n Italy wll depend upon nteracton between resources used and famly background. Increasng the nformaton about the value of educaton among poor people could be an effectve strategy. We do beleve that the mechansm causng the low level of ntergeneratonal moblty s through the wrong hgh school track. Talented students wth a poor famly background often choose a techncal school, followng famly suggeston. The nformaton on college performance suggests that the number of exams passed depends manly on the type of hgh school attended rather than on famly background. Gven that the majorty of students wth a poor famly background go to techncal school, they wll experence a hgher dffculty of completng college, should they decde to enroll. Ths prolongs the low level of educatonal moblty and leads to a low rate of college graduates, whch s not related to the publc educatonal system but smply to a wrong hgh school path followed by poorly educated famles. Famly background plays a central role n determnng school choces and these choces have relevant effects on subsequent educatonal paths. By deepenng the separaton between generalst and vocatonal tracks, the reform of secondary hgh educaton, whch wll be mplemented n the near future, mght have the effect of ncreasng the role of parental backgrounds n shapng ndvdual lves. An effectve functonng of the mechansm desgned n order to guarantee the equal dgnty of tracks- such as the possblty of track changes

19 after the ntal choce- appear as a crucal feature of the mplementaton phase for preventng ntergeneratonal persstence and socal segmentaton to ncrease.

20 Fgure 1. Probabltes of holdng a college degree, condtonal on father s schoolng; and dstrbuton of father s schoolng: USA versus Italy Elementary or less (0-5 year) Mddle School (6-8 year) From some HS to Some College College or more Italy Usa Italy Usa Probabltes of holdng a college degree, condtonal on father level of schoolng Dstrbuton of the father level of schoolng Source: PSID (1992 wave), SHIW (1998 wave)

21 Fgure 2. Number of students enrolled n college from dfferent knds of hgh school: Lce others Source: Annuaro Statstco dell Istruzone, ISTAT

22 Table 1 Transton Probabltes across Generatons n School Achevements USA ITALY Son Son No college College Total No college College Total Father No college College Son: head of household n 1992 present n the Famly Son: head of household n 1998 Father educaton s based on son s recollecton Father educaton s based on son s recollecton Source: PSID 1992 wave Source: SHIW 1998 wave

23 Table 2 Summary Statstcs n the Lceo Regresson Varables Sample means Hghest grade Lowest grade Father wth college Father wth mddle school or less South Center Number of sblngs Female Source: Percors d studo e d lavoro de dplomat, Indagne 2001, ISTAT

24 Table 3 Students Holdng a Hgh School Degree; Dfferent Types of Hgh Schools Type of hgh school Vocatonal schools Techncal schools Lceo classco and lceo scentfco Lceo lngustco 1. 2 Lceo artstco and sttuto d arte Total number of observatons: Total 100 Source: Percors d studo e d lavoro de dplomat, Indagne 2001, ISTAT

25 Table 4 Students Holdng a Hgh School Degree, by Dfferent Types of Hgh Schools and Educaton of Fathers Father wth mddle school or less Father wth hgh school Father wth college degree Vocatonal schools Techncal schools Lceo classco and lceo scentfco Lceo lngustco Lceo artstc and sttuto d arte Total Number of observatons Source: Percors d studo e d lavoro de dplomat, Indagne 2001, ISTAT

26 Table 5 Students Holdng a Hgh School Degree, by Dfferent Types of Hgh Schools and Dfferent Grades n Mddle School Hghest grade n Mddle school Intermedate grade n mddle school Lowest grade n mddle school Vocatonal schools Techncal schools Lceo classco and lceo scentfco Lceo lngustco Lceo artstco and nsttuto d arte Total Number of observatons Source: Percors d studo e d lavoro de dplomat, Indagne 2001, ISTAT

27 Table 6 Students Holdng a Hgh School Degree, by Dfferent Types of Hgh Schools and Educaton of Fathers. Students wth the Hghest Grade n Mddle School Father wth mddle school or less Father wth hgh school or less Father wth college degree Vocatonal schools Techncal schools Lceo classco and lceo scentfco Lceo lngustco Lceo artstco and sttuto d arte Total Number of observatons Source: Percors d studo e d lavoro de dplomat, Indagne 2001, ISTAT

28 Table 7 Students Holdng a Hgh School Degree, by Dfferent Types of Hgh Schools and Educaton of Fathers. Students wth the Lowest Grade n Mddle School Father wth mddle school or less Father wth hgh school Father wth college degree Vocatonal schools Techncal schools Lceo classco and lceo scentfco Lceo lngustco Lceo artstc and sttuto d arte Total Number of observatons Source: Percors d studo e d lavoro de dplomat, Indagne 2001, ISTAT

29 Table 8 Schoolng Paths n 1998 of Hgh School Graduates n 1995 by Dfferent Types of Hgh School Schoolng paths All hgh schools General hgh schools Techncal hgh schools Vocatonal hgh schools Enrolled n college Enrolled n other types of degree Not enrolled Total Source: Percors d studo e d lavoro de dplomat, Indagne 2001, ISTAT

30 Table 9 Schoolng Paths n 1998 of Hgh School Graduates n 1995 by Educaton of Fathers Schoolng paths All hgh schools Father wth dploma Father wth college Father wth mddle school or less Enrolled n college Enrolled n other types of degree Not enrolled Total Source: Percors d studo e d lavoro de dplomat, Indagne 2001, ISTAT

31 Table 10 Schoolng Paths n 1998 of Hgh School Graduates n 1995 by Educaton of Fathers and Dfferent Types of Hgh School Schoolng paths Father wth college Father wth dploma Father wth mddle school or less Enrolled n college Enrolled n other types of degree GENERAL HIGH SCHOOLS Not enrolled Total Enrolled n college Enrolled n other types of degree TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOLS Not enrolled Total Enrolled n college VOCATIONAL HIGH SCHOOLS Enrolled n other types of degree Not enrolled Total Source: Percors d studo e d lavoro de dplomat, Indagne 2001, ISTAT

32 Table 11 Hgh Schools Graduates n 1995 and not Enrolled n any College Degree n 1998 for Dfferent Types of Hgh School All schools General Hgh School Techncal School Vocatonal School Dropped college Dropped other degree Never enrolled Total Source: Percors d studo e d lavoro de dplomat, Indagne 2001, ISTAT

33 Table 12 Hgh Schools Graduates n 1995 and not Enrolled n any College Degree n 1998 by Educaton of Fathers Fathers wth mddle school Fathers wth dploma Father wth college Dropped college Dropped other degree Never enrolled Total Source: Percors d studo e d lavoro de dplomat, Indagne 2001, ISTAT

34 Table 13 Educaton of Parents for College Graduates n 1998 by Dfferent Types of Hgh School College graduates wth a general hgh school degree Level of educaton of parents Father Mother Mddle school or less Dploma College Total College graduates wth a techncal or vocatonal hgh school degree Level of educaton of parents Father Mother Mddle school or less Dploma College Total Source: Insermento professonale de laureat nell anno 1995, Indagne 1998, ISTAT

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