E.g., 10/18/2019
E.g., 10/18/2019

Reducing the Risk that Youth with a Migrant Background in Europe Will Leave School Early

Policy Briefs
February 2015

Reducing the Risk that Youth with a Migrant Background in Europe Will Leave School Early

While most young people in the European Union attain at least an upper secondary level of education, a significant number of students leave school early—nearly 12 percent across the 28 EU Member States in 2013. These numbers, however, conceal important differences related to socioeconomic status and migration background. In 2012, the early school leaving rate of young people born outside of the European Union was, on average, more than double that of natives (25.4 percent compared to 11.5 percent). Along with male youth in general, students with a migrant background have become one of two groups targeted by EU policy recommendations to reduce early school leaving. 

This policy brief is part of a series produced by the SIRIUS Network in collaboration with MPI Europe, which focuses on how policies at the EU level and within individual Member States can better support the education outcomes of young people with a migrant background.


This project is co-funded by the European Union

Research suggests that the over-representation of migrant youth in early school leaving rates can be explained, at least to a large degree, by other factors, including socioeconomic inequalities and the presence or absence of resources in a specific family, community, or school context. At the same time, a higher socioeconomic status does not provide the same protection against early school leaving for migrant pupils as it does for natives, suggesting other mechanisms are at play. Because school leaving is a complex process involving the interactions of actors and factors at the individual, institutional, and structural levels, a comprehensive framework is needed to address the issue.

This policy brief discusses empirical findings, theoretical insights, and promising measures that may inform further policy action to address the disproportionately high level of early school leaving among youth with a migrant background. The brief strongly recommends a holistic approach that includes institutional-level support and structural reforms to improve the graduation rates of migrant pupils from upper secondary schools. Such an approach should also build on the social and cultural capital available in migrant communities, rather than only seeking to compensate for (presumed) deficiencies in migrant households.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Grasping the Increased Risk of ESL Among Migrant Youth

A. Empirical Findings on the Increased Risk of ESL Among Migrant Youth

B. A Holistic Approach to Decreasing ESL Risk Among Migrant Youth

III. The Role of Educational Policy Configurations in ESL Among Migrant Youth

IV. Promising Efforts to Reduce the Risk of ESL Among Migrant Youth

V. Conclusion