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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 13: Inequalities in returns to education in Switzerland

Francesco Laganà

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


Focusing on the Swiss case, this chapter investigates the relation between social origins and education in labour-market success. More specifically, it addresses four research questions: (1) Does an effect of social origins exist after controlling for education?; (2) Has this effect declined over time?; (3) Does it depend on the level of education?; (4) Have the returns to education regarding the chances of accessing the upper classes varied over time? The case of Switzerland is interesting for two reasons: first, because there has been a strong upgrading of the occupational structure in recent decades (Oesch 2013); and second, because of its educational system, which is based on a dual track, where young adults choose between vocational and general education at an early age (Buchmann 1998; Meyer 2011). The chapter is organized as follows. Section 13.2 presents the Swiss case, the literature and the hypotheses. Section 13.3 describes the data and the methods used to address the research questions. Section 13.4 sets out the results of the analysis. Section 13.5 is devoted to the discussion and conclusions.

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