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Is education the great equalizer? Disentangling the direct effect of social origins with parental fixed-effects

NASP International and Interdisciplinary Seminars
13 April 2018, h. 14.30

Speaker: Fabrizio Bernardi (European University Institute)

Room A
Via Pace 10, Milan

Education is considered the great equalizer of opportunities if those individuals who reach the same credentials achieved similar socioeconomic outcomes, independently of their social origins. Recent years have witnessed a renewed interest in the study of the direct effect of social origins (DESO) as an important path for the intergenerational transmission of socio-economic inequalities. While latest studies have documented a substantial DESO in Europe and the US, little is known on the mechanisms underlying this association. In this chapter, co-authored with Carlos J. Gil-Hernández (EUI), we contribute to this literature in two theoretical and empirical ways. First, we introduce the theoretical mechanisms of compensatory advantage (lowereducated) and boosting effect (higher-educated) to analyze the heterogeneity of DESO as a function of respondents' educational level on the achieved socioeconomic status (ISEI), occupational class, and income. Second, we build on micro-classes framework and apply it to the study of DESO. Thus, in addition to the previous literature traditional operationalizing of social origins in terms of social class (EGP), education or ISEI, we also focus on parental micro-classes. In our empirical analysis we use Spain as a case study. We draw data from 50 pooled monthly barometers carried out by the Spanish Centre for Sociological Research (CIS) between February-2013 and November-2017 (n=126,469). As dependent variables to measure socio-economic destination we use ISEI, income, and occupational class (EGP and micro-classes). We estimate OLS regression models with parental fixed-effects to identify which specific parental occupations provide the largest DESO. Results show that there is a DESO in all destination outcomes examined. Analyses including interaction effects between social origin, education and gender indicate that the DESO on income, occupational class, and ISEI is stronger for men and lower-educated individuals, suggesting compensatory advantages. Moreover, for those with a university degree, children from more advantaged social origins have larger income, suggesting boosting effects. Regarding the parental occupations that have a stronger direct effect, we mainly find liberal professionals such as university professors, judges and lawyers, economists, managers and politicians. Overall, results suggest that education cannot be considered as the great equalizer of opportunities in Spain due to the considerable DESO found on respondents' socio-economic outcomes.


04 aprile 2018
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