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University dropouts vs high school graduates in the school-to-work transition: Who is doing better?

Emanuela Ghignoni (Department of Economics and Law, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy)
Giuseppe Croce (Department of Economics and Law, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy)
Alessandro d’Ambrosio (Department of Economics and Law, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Article publication date: 30 January 2019

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to consider the enrolment at university and the subsequent possible dropout as a piece of the school-to-work transition and ask whether it improves or worsens the labour market outcomes a few years after graduation from the high school.

Design/methodology/approach

The analysis exploits data from the upper secondary graduate survey by ISTAT on a cohort of high school graduates and investigates the effect of dropping out four years after graduation. The labour market outcomes of university dropouts are compared to the outcomes of high school graduates who never enrolled at university. A propensity score matching approach is applied. The model is also estimated on the subsamples of males and females.

Findings

The findings show that spending a period at university and leaving it before completion makes the transition to work substantially more difficult. Both the probability of being NEET and getting a bad job increase in the case of dropout, while no relevant effect is found on earnings. Moreover, the impact of university dropout tends to be more harmful the longer the spell from enrolment to dropping out. Separate estimates by gender point out that females appear to be relatively more affected in the case of dropping out without a fallback plan.

Originality/value

While the existing studies in the literature on the school-to-work transition mostly focus on the determinants of the dropout, this paper investigates whether and how the employment outcomes are affected by dropping out in Italy. Moreover, university dropouts are compared to high school graduates with no university experience, rather than to university graduates. Finally, evidence on the mechanisms driving the effect of dropping out is provided, by considering timing and motivations for dropping out.

Keywords

Citation

Ghignoni, E., Croce, G. and d’Ambrosio, A. (2019), "University dropouts vs high school graduates in the school-to-work transition: Who is doing better?", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 40 No. 3, pp. 449-472. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJM-02-2018-0051

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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