The existence of social-background inequality in educational transitions is a well-established fact in Italy. However, it is still unclear the extent to which these social-background differences are due to social-group variations in previous performance (“primary effects”) rather than in decision models (“secondary effects”). This topic has been largely neglected in Italy thus far, with the only exception of Contini e Scagni (2011; 2013). We update and extend their results by exploiting a unique administrative dataset based on an entire student cohort who enrolled in upper secondary education in the province of Trento in school year 2010/11. Our results confirm that secondary effects play an overwhelmingly stronger role as compared with primary effects, especially for boys. But we also add some novel results. First, beyond transitions to general schools, we also consider transitions to vocational training courses, finding that secondary effects are even stronger in this latter case. Second, we proxy social origins using not only parental education but also social class, finding that the use of the former leads to an underestimation of secondary effects. Third, we examine interactions between school grades and social origins and find that social-background differences in general school enrollment persist even among top-performing students.
Primary and secondary effects of social background on educational attainment in Italy. Evidence from an administrative dataset
Ress A., Azzolini D. (2014) "Primary and secondary effects of social background on educational attainment in Italy. Evidence from an administrative dataset " Italian Journal of Sociology of Education, 6(1), 53-80. DOI: 10.14658/PUPJ-IJSE-2014-1-3
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Italian Journal of Sociology of Education
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