Social Mobility and Educational Opportunities in Southern European Countries

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
TW2.1.02 (Tower Two)
Gabriele Ballarino, University of Milan, Milan, Italy
Nazareno Panichella, Graduate School in Social, Economic and Political Sciences of the University of Milan, Milan, Italy
Social mobility and Educational opportunities in Southern European Countries  

Gabriele Ballarino, Nazareno Panichella

University of Milan, department of Social and Political Sciences

   1. Introduction and motivation

Welfare regimes – as in Esping-Anderson’s (1990) familiar model of social democratic, conservative, and liberal welfare states – may have an crucial influence intergenerational patterns. Mostly conceived of as incentive and insurance schemes (e.g., DiPrete, 2002), welfare states can plausibly be thought to increase or decrease the impact of social origins on destinations (DiPrete & Grusky, 1990). Differences in social mobility among countries can be the consequence of two factors: a) the educational opportunities structure and b) the regulation of labour market. Education mediates the influence of social origins on destinations among individuals, while origins affect how far people go in school and educational credentials affect where people end up in labor markets more generally. Indeed, cross-national differences in the association between social origins and social destinations correspond to differences in both welfare regime type and access to post-secondary education.

Previous evidences show that socialist and social democratic welfare regimes foster a weaker origin–destination, while conservative welfare regimes in Italy, Ireland, Austria, and Germany are associated with a strong origin–destination association (Goldthorpe, Yaish, & Kraus, 1997). Finally, liberal welfare states, prototypically the United Kingdom, France, and the United States, have intermediate levels of origin–destination association (e.g., Erikson & Goldthorpe, 1985).

Many scholar, indeed, pointed out the need to create a new model to describe welfare regimes of Southern European countries (see, for instance, Ferrera 2003). This article studies the social mobility and the educational opportunities in Southern European countries (Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal) in comparison with central and northern European countries. Previous studies on this topic have been scarce: up to now, it is not clear if there “Mediterranean regimes of social mobility”. Two issues are analysed: a) the educational opportunities; c) the social mobility regimes, focusing on both direct and indirect (because mediated by education) effect of social classes on the social class of destination.

We control two hypotheses. Our first question is whether social origin has a stronger direct effect on occupational success in Mediterranean countries, over and above education. We expect a positive answer to this question, not just on the basis of the previous research reviewed above but also in the light of two structural features of the Southern Eurpean labour markets. First, the large share of self-employment, especially in Italy, where the direct influence of social origin is stronger. Second the important role of personal and family networks for job search in Italy (Reyneri 2005; Ballarino and Bratti 2010). Our second question concerns the trend over time of this direct effect of social origins. Previous studies shown a worsening balance between the supply of educated individuals and the demand coming from the labour market (Bernardi 2012; Ballarino et al. 2014). In such a context, the signaling value of educational titles should decrease, which in turn may strengthen the importance of other signals in the employee selection process. Among such signals, those related to the family background might be of major importance in a service economy where soft skills gain growing importance, as suggested by Goldthorpe and Jackson (2008). This trend is particularly pronounced in Italy, Span, Greece and Portugal, because these countries have known a strong expansion of the educational system but not as strong an upgrading of the economic structure. We thus hypothesize a stronger increase over time of the direct effect of social origins in Mediterranean countries.

  2.Data, Variables and Methods

Data from the European Social Survey (five waves 2002-2010) and from the EU-SILC module on intergenerational transmission of poverty (2005) are analysed. Both surveys have been harmonized and merged in a single dataset, including information on social origin and educational attainment of a representative sample of 20 European countries.

We measure educational achievement with two dummy variables: the first measures the probability of achieving at least an upper secondary diploma (ISCED 3), and is equal to 1 for those who did; the second refers to the probability to achieve at least some postsecondary degree, including of course a full university degree (ISCED 4-6). When we study the social class of destination we use the EGP class schema (Erikson and Goldthorpe 1992). Service class includes the occupations classified in EGP I-II, while the unskilled working class includes EGP IIIb, V-VI-VIIab. For studying the inclusion in the labour market, two dependent variables are analysed: a) probability of entering the service class; b) probability of avoiding the working class.

The empirical analysis focuses on both the average differences between the countries of southern Europe and those of central and northern Europe, as well as the differences in trends over time. Hence, the first part of this work analyses the overall IEO and its trend over time, comparing Mediterranean with Central and Northern European countries. The second part studies the direct and indirect (i.e. mediated by the educational system) effect of social origin on social destination, as well as their changes over time.