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Can State Language Policies Distort Students’ Demand for Education?

Muravyev, Alexander and Talavera, Oleksandr (2015): Can State Language Policies Distort Students’ Demand for Education?

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Abstract

We exploit a recent natural experiment in Ukraine’s school system to study how stricter requirements for proficiency in the state language affect linguistic minority students’ demand for education. The reform obligated linguistic minority students to take a standardized school exit test in Ukrainian, thus denying them access to translated versions of the test. We study the implications of this reform for students in schools with Hungarian and Romanian/Moldovan languages of instruction. Using school-level data and employing difference-in-difference estimation techniques, we find that the reform resulted in a decline in the number of subjects taken by minority students. They particularly withdrew from linguistically-demanding subjects such as History and Biology, taking more Math instead. Given the implications for minority students’ fields of future study, the reform may have affected their educational outcomes in a distortive way.

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