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The influence of ethnic segregation and school mobility in primary education on high school dropout ? Evidence from regression discontinuity at a contextual tipping point

Cheng Boon Ong & Kristof De Witte


This paper investigates the influence of ethnic composition and school mobility at the primary school-level on the propensity to drop out of high school. Using rich school and
neighbourhood administrative data, we observe that (i) frequent school movers have a 2.6 times higher likelihood of early school leaving; (ii) the relationship between the share of nonwestern minority students (in primary school) and early school leaving is non-linear; and (iii) the influence of non-western peers on early school leaving is moderated by student’s own ethnicity. Using polynomial regression and regression discontinuity methods, we observe a ‘contextual tipping point’ in ethnic peer composition that is linked to a discontinuous break in the predicted probability of school dropout. The conditional probability of school dropout increases by 5.4 percent points to 8.0 percent if ‘school stable’ native Dutch students are enrolled in primary schools that exceed the contextual tipping point of 77.7 percent nonwestern minority students.
Keywords: Ethnic segregation; School mobility; School dropout; Regression discontinuity; Tipping point
JEL-classification: I21, I22, J18, R20

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