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Family background and university dropouts during the crisis: the case of Italy

Emanuela Ghignoni ()

No 169, Working Papers from University of Rome La Sapienza, Department of Public Economics

Abstract: The Italian university system has long been characterized by high non-completion rates, though aggregate data show a slight reduction of dropouts in recent years. The most straightforward theoretical explanation for this lies in the lowering opportunity cost of studying due to the financial and economic crisis. Nonetheless, this interpretation is likely to be partly misleading. Indeed, when the crisis hit Italy, enrolment rates had been declining for years and the sample of freshmen has become increasingly selected according to family ‘social class’. Since a good family background significantly increases students’ probability of succeeding, the recent decline in dropouts could partly depend on sample selection. By applying probit selection models and decomposition techniques to a sample of Italian university students enrolled in different periods of time, I find that the change in students’ background characteristics plays a major role in the recent reduction of the dropout rate.

Keywords: dropout; enrolment; selection; social class (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I21 I24 E32 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 39
Date: 2015-03
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-eur and nep-mac
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