This paper examines the impact of Syrian refugees on high school enrollment rates of Turkish youth. Syrian refugees in Turkey are, on average, less skilled and more willing to work in low-pay informal jobs than natives. There are two main channels through which refugees might influence high school enrollment rates among Turkish youth: (1) increased competition for schooling resources may discourage native youth and, as a result, high school enrollment may decline; and (2) the decline in wages due to increased competition for low-skill jobs may encourage high school enrollment among native youth. The author uses Turkish Household Labor Force Survey data from 2006 to 2016 and employs quasi-experimental methods by exploiting the regional variation in Syrian refugee intensity and the exogeneity of the timing of the refugee influx. The author finds that high-school enrollment rates increased by 4-6 percentage points among native youth in refugee-hosting regions. A one-percentage point increase in the refugee-to-population ratio in a region generates around 0.5 percentage point increase in native’s high school enrollment rates before controlling for parental characteristics and by 1 percentage point after controlling for parental characteristics. The increase comes from males and there is no increase in female high school enrollment rates. The results are robust after controlling for: (a) variables proxying parental investment in human capital such as educational attainment of the household head, intact families (i.e. married and living together), and household size; and (b) changes in regional economic activity. The author also finds that that the increase is more pronounced for young males with ‘lower parental backgrounds’ (i.e. lower education), which is consistent with the hypothesis that the increased competition for low-skill jobs may encourage high school enrollment among native youth.
The Impact of Low-skill Refugees on Youth Education