Social origins, tracking and occupational attainment in Italy
Longitudinal and Life Course Studies
Italy, track choice, vocational education, social class attainment
Students and parents choose among high school tracks based on the assumption that academic tracks will offer a better preparation for university while vocational tracks will make the transition in the labour market easier, if students do not have a tertiary degree. We assess whether this assumption holds also when considering the long-term occupational outcomes of tracks choices in upper secondary education, controlling for both social and ability selection into tracks. We use for this purpose recent data from the 2014 ISFOL PLUS survey and apply linear regression/probability models to investigate labour market outcomes in a stage of occupational maturity. We find that, while there are no significant differences between tracks in the likelihood of being employed, students with an academic diploma fare better than vocational students in terms of social class attainment, even in the absence of a tertiary degree. The advantage of the academic diploma holds both for entering the salariat class and the high salariat class, and for avoiding demotion into manual occupations or unskilled manual occupations. We also show that tracking accounts for a large proportion of the total effects of socio-economic background on occupational attainment, and that coming from socio-economically advantaged families exacerbates the labour market advantages of attending an academic track.