In this paper we use data from the 2009 ad hoc module of the Labour Force Survey to study the impact of both contextual and educational determinants on the effect of parental background (PBE) on Early School Leaving (ESL).
The results concerning the effect of educational characteristics are twofold. First, ‘vocationalism’ (i.e.
a strong vocational sector in upper secondary education) acts as a safety net against dropout by offering less academically inclined students a valuable alternative with attractive labour market prospects. By contrast, while early tracking has no consistent effects in terms of average dropout rates, it dramatically boosts the effect of parental background. As regards the effect of the socio-economic context, we find a strong positive effect of poverty rates on the dropout risk of children of low-educated parents, boosting the effect of parental background. Secondly, we observe a negative effect of youth unemployment on dropout probabilities of children
of high-educated parents (reduced opportunity costs), while the effect on children of low-educated parents turns out positive (reduced educational aspirations); this also strengthens the PBE. Finally, we find a strong negative effect on the average ESL-rates when qualifications offer an effective protection against unemployment, measured in terms of the relative odds of unemployment between unqualified and qualified adults.