Latent effects of social aid policies on educational paths: the case of Italian Switzerland.

Zanolla, Giovanna and Calvo, Spartaco (2020) Latent effects of social aid policies on educational paths: the case of Italian Switzerland. In: 10th UC Workshop – EXPECTED INEQUALITIES AND UNINTENDED SYMMETRIES, 11-12 May 2020, Warsaw, Poland. (Submitted)

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This paper shows some results of two longitudinal studies, which focus on the educational paths of young people benefiting from social assistance in Italian Switzerland. The two studies concern partially overlapping social groups: the former regards youngsters assisted by educational centers for minors (300 cases during the period 2008-2015), the latter youngsters receiving financial aid from social assistance (315 cases during the period 2008-2017). Both the studies derive from the widespread belief that these youngsters, despite the measures aimed at supporting them, meet average greater difficulties than their peers in completing their education. After a review of the several forms of social aid put at their disposal, we analyzed the educational paths of these youngsters both in a quantitative, qualitative and comparative perspective. Once we found confirmation of a significant difference in the school success of these vulnerable youngsters in comparison with the rest of the population, we explored failure factors such as school grades and the reasons for breach of apprenticeship contracts. Subsequently we interviewed twenty of these youngsters, in order to go into deep their experience during the school years and to ask them about the difficulties they have met, in order to find a first confirmation about the failure factors evidenced by the quantitative analysis and ask them which corrections to aid measures could be applied. Finally, we interviewed several educators and social workers, in order to gather their impressions about the preliminary findings of the study and ask them which improvements should be adopted. As expected, among the many causes of failure identified, most are recurrent in the literature of inequality of educational opportunities by social origin. A factor we put into evidence is the process of stigmatization and, in particular, of self-stigmatization, which some of these youngsters refer when talking about their school years and which some of the educators and social workers confirmed. The causes of stigmatization and self-stigmatization relate to two phenomena: - The change in the last decades in the philosophy of the social welfare policy in Switzerland, where a series of measures, have transformed the Swiss model from a predominantly universalist and redistributive system to a more conservative-corporatist one, in terms of Esping-Andersen’s typology. The consequence is that some measures, previously perceived as rights, are now seen as charitable attributions. - The second factor concerns more specifically the educational centers for minors and is more dated and difficult to describe. These institutions are perceived by many as the contemporary evolution of orphanages and are therefore wrapped by a sort of "spiral of silence", because they seem to materialize the possible failure of the primordial social bond of any society: the family. The document concludes with a reflection on some possible improvement measures.

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