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Education, Occupation and Social Origin

Education, Occupation and Social Origin

A Comparative Analysis of the Transmission of Socio-Economic Inequalities

Edited by Fabrizio Bernardi and Gabrielle Ballarino

This innovative book takes a comparative approach to the social origin–education–destination triangle (OED), looking at the intergenerational transmission of advantage in 14 countries. The intention is to debate the claim that education is the ‘great social equalizer’. The contributors examine the relation between family background, education and occupational achievement over time and across educational levels, focusing on the relationship between individuals’ social origins and their income and occupational outcomes. It will be of interest to academics and students of social policy and those interested in social inequalities and their reproduction over time.

Chapter 6: Social background and education in occupational attainment in Italy

Gabriele Ballarino, Carlo Barone and Nazareno Panichella

Subjects: education, education policy, social policy and sociology, education policy, sociology and sociological theory


This chapter addresses the four research issues presented in the Introduction to this book, in regard to Italy. Unlike its north-western neighbours, Italy was a latecomer to industrialization (Banfield 1958; Putnam 1993), and it is still debated whether Italian society can be classified as fully modernized (Barbagli 1982; Cobalti and Schizzerotto 1994; Schizzerotto and Cobalti 1998; Martinelli et al. 1999). Hence, studying Italian social stratification from the point of view of modernization theories and their critiques might be particularly interesting. Moreover, given that previous research, as reviewed by Ballarino et al. (2014), did not give a consistent answer to the question of the degree of modernization of the Italian society, this chapter provides new evidence to both the specific discussion on the Italian case and the more general debate on socio-economic modernization. First, we study the direct ‘effect’ of social background on occupational achievement (intergenerational occupational correlation), controlling for education. Second, we test whether this effect changes over time as postulated by modernization theories.

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