Liberal and radical equality of opportunity (SNSF [ERC] Starting Grant, Aug 2023 – Jul 2028)

A large body of literature investigates how advantages in resources such as education, occupation, income, and wealth are passed on from one generation to another. This research is motivated by the idea that the intergenerational transmission of advantageous resources is at odds with the normative ideal of equality of opportunity. However, the relationship between the normative ideal of equality of opportunity and the empirical measures of intergenerational transmission is rarely made explicit and many researchers in this field avoid using a normative language and referring to equality of opportunity altogether.

This project addresses this major limitation of research on social stratification. The first innovation of EQUALOPP is to acknowledge that different conceptions of equality of opportunity, motivated by the literature in sociology, philosophy, political science, and economics, have to be distinguished. I distinguish between liberal and radical equality of opportunity.

The second innovation is that I relate these different conceptions of equality of opportunity to different empirically measurable concepts. The project will measure these empirical concepts using multiple data sources from five European countries and the United States. The empirical analyses will address three questions of major importance for the social sciences:

(1) Do liberal and radical equality of opportunity vary across countries?

(2) Have liberal and radical equality of opportunity increased across cohorts?

(3) Can educational reforms and societal changes affect liberal and radical equality of opportunity?

EQUALOPP will advance our understanding of equality of opportunity. It will both broaden our theoretical understanding of equality of opportunity and provide new and more reliable empirical measures of equality of opportunity. Finally, the empirical analyses will provide an up-to-date picture of equality of opportunity in Europe and the United States.

The Intergenerational Consequences of Demographic Behaviour: Estimating the Effects of Parental Union Formation and Fertility on Educational Mobility (SNSF Ambizione Grant, Sep 2019 – Jul 2023)

The project estimates how demographic life course events, i.e. union formation and fertility, influence the intergenerational transmission of advantage. Leading social scientist have expressed concerns that recent demographic changes may result in lower levels of social mobility for children growing up today. As these claims largely refer to currently unobservable, future mobility outcomes of today’s children, they cannot be empirically tested. What can be empirically tested, however, are the proposed micro-level mechanisms underlying the relationship between demographic life course events and social mobility. Only if demographic life course events influence social mobility at the micro level, cohort changes in the occurrence of demographic events can result in cohort changes in social mobility. This research project tests whether and how much demographic events occurring over the parental life course, i.e. partnership formation (in particular, assortative mating) and fertility (whether there are children, parental ages in relation to their children, and number of children) affect social mobility. I focus on educational mobility as education is an important predictor of life chances in contemporary societies. The use of high-quality survey data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP), and Swiss Household Panel (SHP) makes this research project feasible.