Major demographic shifts and global changes have contributed to the increasing diversity in the composition of the population in Italy. The country has been relentlessly involved in population aging and demographic decline, while at the same time turning from a historical emigration country to a major destination for (young) migrants and asylum seekers from neighbouring regions. This change in the demographic composition has significant implications for social integration at the local level, with major challenges posed by hostile attitudes towards immigrants and minority groups, including prejudices, discrimination, and xenophobia. This project investigates the potential role of educational programs in shaping attitudes toward immigrants and cultural diversity among youth, with the final goal of designing effective integration policies for inter-group relations and an inclusive society.
We will conduct a randomized evaluation of a program designed to foster intercultural dialogue and social inclusion through perspective-taking activities that can encourage students to break down stereotypes and consider cultural diversity and integration as a value. The program is implemented by the Italian-based NGO Helpcode and has been created by a multidisciplinary team of social scientists, pedagogical consultants, and multimedia developers within a framework of ‘active learning’.
The study will involve 240 high-school classes, across 40 schools located in the provinces of the two Italian cities of Milano and Genova. Due to resource constraints, the program can only be delivered to 120 classes during the school year 2022-2023. Other classes will be covered in the future, depending on the success of this initial phase and on future funding availability. The classes that will receive the program in this initial phase will be randomly selected among available classes within each target school. We will then conduct two rounds of data collection (baseline and endline), surveying a sample of about 17 students per class, for a total of about 4,080 students. Our primary outcome of interest will be attitudes towards migrants, as captured through a combination of measures, that include the Implicit Association Test (IAT), behavioural games, and self-reported measures. Our surveys will also allow us to capture a wider range of outcomes and discuss the mechanisms behind the observed impact.
We expect this study to provide new insights that can directly inform practitioners and policymakers to design programs and policies aimed at handling the complexity of population changes and creating an open and inclusive society.