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FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren

Educational Trajectories: Choices, Constraints and Contexts

Awarded: NOK 7.0 mill.

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2012 - 2016


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A study sendt to an international journal examines whether a high concentration of immigrant students leads to lower completion rates or poorer exam results for native students in Norwegian upper secondary education. Norway is an interesting case for several reasons, such as being a recent immigration country and also by the fact that nearly all students in lower secondary continue to upper secondary education at age 16. The results are quite unequivocal: A high concentration of immigrant students is associated with poorer completion (among native students), but this association appears to be non-causal and disappears with control for lower secondary grades (grunnskolepoeng) or school by programme fixed effects. Another study contributes to the literature by including and testing the importance of some core observable teacher characteristics in Norway. Using high quality register data we find that students who attend schools with experienced teachers, highly educated teachers, and teachers who obtained good grades during their teacher training do not perform better than other students. There is, however, a positive relationship between teacher seniority and student performance, even if the relationship is small in size. Poor health among disadvantaged adolescents may impede their ability to perform well in school. Our study expands the previous literature by examining whether adolescent health mediates the well-established relationship between socioeconomic background and successful high school completion. Results show adolescents with lower educated parents reported poorer health, which negatively impacted their likelihood of graduating from high school. Multi-group analyses further revealed that the mediational pathway of influence was stronger in the U.S. than in Norway. These results suggest that policies aimed at preventing high school dropout need to address adolescent health, as well as unequal opportunities derived from socioeconomic disadvantage. Furthermore, the results suggest that the ways in which access to social resources are distributed through medical, political and economic institutions influence how social inequalities affect health and life chances. In another paper we seek to further our understanding of cross-national variation in labour market gender segregation, by comparing Norway and the United States. Our findings show that the Norwegian labour market is somewhat more gender segregated than the US labour market, and that this is related to the higher employment among Norwegian women, combined with a larger share of employment in female dominated economic niches. In both countries hourly wages are considerably lower in female dominated economic niches than in male dominated economic niches (defined as jobs that typically require certain qualifications and pay certain levels of wages). A fundamental difference between the two labour markets is that the gender gap is very small in niches dominated by public sector employment in Norway, in female dominated economic niches in particular. By contrast, in the United States the gender wage gap remains large also in economic niches dominated by public sector employment. A book chapter, which is part of an international edited volume about race and ethnic inequalities in education, discusses research on ethnic inequality in education conducted in the years 1980-2016, and describes the central research traditions in this field in Norway. The chapter is collaboration between Liza Reisel at the Institute for Social Research, Marianne Takvam Kindt at the Department of Education at UiO and Are Skjeie Hermansen at the Department of Sociology and Human Geography at UiO. We use idiosyncratic variation in gender composition across cohorts within Norwegian lower-secondary schools to analyze the impact of female peers on students? grades and choices of typical masculine subjects (STEM subjects). First, we find that girls? performance in mathematics and science increases slightly. Survey evidence suggests that a potential mechanism is an improved classroom environment. Second, more female peers have a larger effect on choices than on performance. Improved performance in STEM subjects can only account for around 20-30 percent of the effects on choices. Instead, the evidence indicates that the mechanism is related to gender norms. A preliminary working paper investigates the role of maturity in explaining the gender gap in school achievement. We use relative age within a cohort as a measure of maturity. When comparing boys born late in the year to boys born early in the year we find a larger difference in their grade point average at the end of lower secondary schooling than when making the corresponding comparison among girls. This suggests that relatively young boys are doubly penalised. We find evidence of this double penalty in later measures of educational attainment, such as completion of higher education.

Education often leads to a better positioning in the labour market, including higher earnings at the individual level, as well as economic growth for society as a whole. Both from an equal rights standpoint and from a profitability standpoint it is theref ore desirable to equalize opportunities for educational success. In order to do so it is important to map and understand existing educational inequalities and their consequences for labour market outcomes. Important questions are: Do urbanicity or region affect patterns of educational program choice? How do gender differences in educational trajectories amplify, reduce or interact with other forms of inequalities, along dimensions such as ethnicity, social class or nativity? Is ethnic school segregation negative for student performance? Does health during childhood and adolescence influence educational outcomes such as grades and completion? Is health a mediating factor between family resources and educational outcomes? We will use quantitative methods. An important challenge in the quantitative analyses is to reveal causal relationships. This is especially important in two of the subprojects (2.3.2 and subproject 2.3.3.). In subproject 2.3.2 we will expoit idiosyncratic variation across grades within s chool. In subproject 2.3.3 we will experiment with path-analyses and instrumental variable approaches. Our project aims to produce new knowledge that will have clear policy relevance. We will produce new knowledge on important aspects of the educational system, and especially on themes related to pathways in the educational system, the interplay between health and educational outcomes, the interplay between ethnical segregation and student performance, and finally the interplay between the educational sector and the labour market.

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FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren