The Effect of Refugees on Native Adolescents' Test Scores: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Pisa - Economic Research Forum (ERF)

The Effect of Refugees on Native Adolescents’ Test Scores: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Pisa

Semih Tumen

October, 2019


Economic Research Forum

J6. Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers
I2. Education and Research Institutions

Existing evidence suggests that low-skilled refugee influx increases high school enrollment among native youth due to increased competition for jobs with low skill requirements. In this paper, I ask whether the refugee influx has also increased the intensity of human capital accumulation for those who are enrolled in school. Using the PISA database and implementing an empirical strategy designed to exploit the time variation in regional refugee intensity within a quasi-experimental setting, I show that the Math, Science, and Reading scores of Turkish native adolescents have notably increased following the Syrian refugee influx—conditional on parental education, which is used as a proxy for unobserved ability. The increase in PISA scores is more pronounced for males than females. Most importantly, the increase in test scores mostly comes from the lower half of the test score distribution. This suggests that the refugee influx has reduced the test score inequality among natives. I conclude that the labor market forces that emerged in the aftermath of the refugee crisis have led native adolescents, who would normally perform worse in school, to take their high school education more seriously.

Research Fellows

Semih Tumen

Associate Professor of Economics, TED University, Turkey



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