We propose an intervention to tackle inequalities in the aspirations of children in eight grade in the city of Milan. Our goal is to affect children’s career prospects by making them more aware of the career paths they can pursue, how to pursue them, and of their probability of success, breaking the self-fulfilling low beliefs in aspirations that may cause aspiration traps (Ray, 2006). What is the most effective way to achieve this goal? Is it providing “examples of success” so that students can visualize themselves achieving success or simply providing (missing) information on the steps necessary to achieve a professional role? We tackle this question proposing two alternative treatments. In the first, children meet a panel of role models who share the same socio-economic background (they lived in the same neighbourhood or attended the same school), completed education successfully and gained a fulfilling job. We expect children to identify with the role model, understand the choices they have made and possibly consider this carrier for their future. To test if the “value added” of the role model is merely the delivery of new information we propose an alternative treatment, where classes meet a “career expert” providing students with information on the steps required to achieve a job. The information provided by the two treatments will be as similar as possible.
We will carry out the study in 60 schools in the province of Milan. 240 eight-grade classes will be assigned either to host a career-day (treatment) or to host an earth-day (control) or no event. Classes assigned to the career day may receive a panel of role model (identification treatment) or a career expert (information treatment). The control group will take part in a debate on the consequences of global warming led by an enumerator. All the students will have the chance to interact by asking questions. 10 schools will be assigned to host no event, to estimate potential spillovers between treated and control classes in treated schools. To assess the impact of the intervention we will merge insights from the economics and psychology of education literature. We will track the school grade, school choice and performance in standardized test scores of students in the treated and control groups and collect self-reported aspirations using surveys, open-ended interviews and essays created by the students and use regression analysis and content analysis.