Human capital accumulation and skills formation among natives and migrants in the UK

Lead Research Organisation: Royal Holloway, University of London
Department Name: Economics


There are several ways in which the migrant/native dimension can be investigated to study the
determinants of skills composition. First, it can be done in terms of how and why migrants and natives differ in their specialisation. My project will reply to questions such as: do migrants and natives specialise in different subjects? If so, when do these differences emerge and how do they evolve over time? To what extent can these differences be explained by language proficiency? Due to (perceived) lower ability in English, migrants might specialise in more technical subjects, such as STEM subjects. And how are the differences due to differences in parental investment and aspirations towards education? Migrant and native parents might differ in their information about the educational system and in the aspirations for their children because of their different life experiences, cognitive and non-cognitive skills, and ethnic capital. Second, migration might cause natives to specialise in certain sectors more than others. Students do not make their choices in isolation but in response to the surrounding environment. The literature on peer effects has emphasised the roles that classmates have on various educational decisions (Elsner and
Isphording, 2017). I will assess whether the ethnic composition in the classroom affects future
educational decisions, thus contributing to the small literature on the topic in the UK (to my knowledge, only Geay et al. 2013 investigates the impact of non-English speaker pupils on natives' grades at primary education). Furthermore, I will investigate whether migrants also affect natives at the highest level of education. Within field of specialization, I will study whether migrants affect graduate natives on two dimensions: HE outcomes and labour market outcomes. During the fellowship, I will be exploring how to best reply to these research questions with available
data and appropriate empirical strategies using Advanced Quantitative Methods. I will address these research questions using econometric techniques to establish a causal relation between the variables and the outcomes of interest. The UK is an ideal country to study these questions. One of the best administrative datasets, the National Pupil Database, can now be linked to surveys (e.g. Understanding Society and the Millennium Cohort Study), and other administrative datasets (e.g. the Higher Education Statistical Agency). This provides ample scope for investigating my research questions in a quantitative framework by using novel and robust strategies. (Notice that I have already worked with all datasets just cited.) My project will give a comprehensive description of the issue of specialisation and skills formation in a life-cycle perspective, i.e. from primary school to HE. This is important because the UK educational system is characterised by early-specialisation. At age 14, pupils select which subjects to study (only maths and English are mandatory and science can be chosen to be studied as single/double/triple option) and their choices will affect whether and what to study at post-secondary school, which will in turn affect HE outcomes. Indeed, ethnic minorities are more likely to specialise in STEM subjects at secondary school and this is mirrored in degree choices at HE (Codiroli Mcmaster 2017). Furthermore, looking at only at one stage of education could be misleading to understand the overall impact of specialization and its determinants for migrants and natives. Ethnic minorities in primary school achieve lower grades when compared to natives (Dustmann and Trentini 2008). However, in secondary school, when specialization kicks off, they catch up, and some ethnic groups even outperform natives (Dustmann et al. 2010, Briggs et al. 2006). In the end, migrants end up accumulating more years of post-compulsory education than natives (Dustmann and Fabbri 2003).


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Morando G (2020) Peer gender and STEM specialization in Applied Economics Letters

Description There is a statistically significant impact of international students on domestic students sorting into universities and, consequently on their higher education outcomes and job opportunities.
Exploitation Route We are at the moment finalising the paper which would be of great interest for the higher education sector and for migration policies. I'll communicate the results outside academia though non-academic blogs. I'll also communicate them to UCAS and the DfE.
Sectors Education

Description Dauphine Foundation Women and Science Chair Prize
Amount € 10,000 (EUR)
Organisation Paris Dauphine University 
Sector Academic/University
Country France
Start 09/2020 
End 10/2021
Description new projects 
Organisation Royal Holloway, University of London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Thanks to this postdoc I expanded my academic network and started new collaborations at RHUL.
Collaborator Contribution I am working on a new project with a postdoc, PhD student and Professor at RHUL.
Impact This collaboration is mainly in the field of economics. We are working on one paper at the moment.
Start Year 2020
Description paper collaboration 
Organisation University College London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution co-authorship of an academic paper
Collaborator Contribution Co-author of paper: Julian Costas-Fernandez, University College London
Impact - presentation at seminars: RHUL, UCL, LSE - presentation at international conferences: ESPE
Start Year 2018
Description Paper presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact We presented our paper on the effect of studying in higher education with international students on their educational attainment and labour market outcomes. We presented at the international conference of the European Society of Population Economics and at several departmental seminars and workshops at Royal Holloway University of London, University College London and London School of Economics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019