IZA DP No. 5411: Can State Language Policies Distort Students' Demand for Higher Education?
revised version published as "Can state language policies distort students' demand for education?" in Journal of Comparative Economics, 2016, 44(2), 383–399
This paper takes advantage of a recent policy experiment in Ukraine's secondary education system to study the effect of stricter requirements for proficiency in the state language on linguistic minority students’ demand for, as well as opportunities to pursue, further studies at the university level. The reform that we consider obligated all minority students, including those studying in public schools with a full cycle of education in minority languages, to take a standardized school exit test (which is also a university entry test) in Ukrainian, the state language, thus denying them previously granted access to translated tests. Using school-level data and employing the difference-in-difference estimator we find evidence that the reform resulted in a decline in the number of subjects taken by minority students at the school exit test. There was also a notable shift in the take-up of particular subjects, with fewer exams taken by minority students in more linguistically-demanding subjects such as History, Biology, and Geography, and more exams taken in foreign languages and Math. Overall, our results suggest some distortions in the accumulation of human capital by linguistic minority students induced by the language policy.