Immigrant-native educational gaps: A systematic inquiry into the schooling of children of immigrants throughout the Italian education system

Azzolini, Davide (2012) Immigrant-native educational gaps: A systematic inquiry into the schooling of children of immigrants throughout the Italian education system. PhD thesis, University of Trento.

PDF - Doctoral Thesis


This dissertation provides an empirical inquiry into the schooling of children of immigrants in Italy. Combining two distinct research strands—i.e., studies on immigrant adaptation and research on social stratification—I regard education as a key factor for the structural integration and the chances of social mobility of children of immigrants in the receiving society. The study contributes to the empirical literature in several respects. First, it adds fresh evidence from a novel destination of international migration, like Italy, which has attracted impressive numbers of immigrants in the past recent years, and which differs from more traditional receiving countries in regard to some key institutional settings and features of the migratory phenomenon. Second, it extends to the national level the empirical research on Italy, which has been almost entirely limited to small-scale and local studies so far. The empirical analyses point to a pronounced disadvantage for children of immigrants in both learning achievement and educational attainment and throughout all educational levels, from primary to upper secondary education. Youths with immigrant background exhibit lower learning achievements, especially in reading; obtain lower marks; and enrol in shorter and vocational oriented schools—which substantially reduce their chances to access tertiary education. Also, they are more likely to leave the education system without obtaining any qualification and thus are more at risk of entering the lower segments of the labor market with limited chances of upward mobility. Although, in general, second-generation children (i.e., native-born children with foreign-born parents) outperform their first-generation counterparts (i.e., foreign-born children with foreign-born parents)—indicating that immigrant generational status is an important determinant of education—differences in the educational outcomes of the first and the second generation appear rather small and are often insignificant. However, highly diverging generational patterns are tacking place between different national-origin groups. Whereas some groups (e.g., Northern and sub-Saharan Africans) display severe disadvantages as well as inconsistent generational gains, some other groups (i.e., Eastern Asians) display a strong progress across generations and are undistinguishable from their native counterparts. In line with previous research carried out in other European countries, social background accounts for large parts of the observed immigrant-native differences—underscoring the key role played by socioeconomic resources in affecting children's educational outcomes in Italy. However, the contribution of social background is heterogeneous across groups, being stronger for the least disadvantaged national-origin groups and weaker for the most disadvantaged ones. Further research is needed to disentangle the mechanisms underlying these diverging patterns as well as to provide an empirical test for hypotheses related to the different social capital endowments of families.

Item Type:Doctoral Thesis (PhD)
Doctoral School:Sociology and Social Research (within the School in Social Sciences, till the a.y. 2010-11)
PhD Cycle:XXIV
Subjects:Area 13 - Scienze economiche e statistiche
Area 14 - Scienze politiche e sociali
Uncontrolled Keywords:educational achievement; educational attainment; immigrant-native educational gaps; inequality in educational opportunity; Italy
Repository Staff approval on:16 May 2012 13:35

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