Educational Trajectories Of Indigenous Students: Vertical And Horizontal Stratification In The Chilean Educational System

Andrea Paz Alvarado Urbina, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

Multiple studies connect ethnic background with uneven educational outcomes; this study contributes a novel perspective to the literature by attending to indigenous peoples’ experiences with vertical and horizontal dimensions of stratification in the Chilean school system. This dissertation investigates the transition from primary to secondary school and to higher education, comparing enrollment in academic and vocational tracks at the secondary and tertiary levels. It then investigates the choice of field of study among students who enroll in higher education. Finally, it compares the educational trajectories of indigenous and non-indigenous student cohorts who entered higher education before and after the post-2011 free-of-charge policy. With a series of logistic regressions, I investigate differences in critical educational transitions associated with indigenous status, together with gender and location. Analyses of the 2012 seventh-grade cohort shows that indigenous status increases the likelihood of enrolling in vocational high schools, but regarding the transition to higher education, indigenous status is only relevant when school SES is not included. Nevertheless, vocational high school graduates (where indigenous students concentrate) are less likely to enroll in higher education, and more likely to enroll in vocational instead of academic higher education programs. Furthermore, in higher education, indigenous students are more likely than non-indigenous peers to enroll in vocational "Engineering, Industry and Construction" programs and vocational "Health and Social Services" programs, while they are less likely to enroll in academic "Social Sciences, Management, and Law" programs. However, controlling for school SES renders these differences irrelevant. Previous cohorts show little variation in the transition into higher education for the 2015-2018 period. However, there is some indication of a shrinking gap in enrollment rates between vocational and academic high school graduates, a reduction of enrollment in vocational higher education programs after 2016, and a declining impact of school characteristics. Overall, indigenous status has a clear impact on students' transition from middle school to high school, which has relevant consequences for the transition to higher education. While indigenous status loses salience in this latter transition, gender, and type of high school strongly affect the choice of higher education field of study and type of program.