English title: Changes in intergenerational social mobility in Switzerland: Is inequality of opportunity still persistent?

Author(s): Julie Falcon -

Language: English

Type: Conference paper/poster

Year: 2011


Like many other Western countries, Switzerland has experienced throughout the 20th century massive social changes notably in terms of economic development, labor force composition and educational expansion. As a consequence, according to the liberal theory of industrialism, social selection should have become more based on meritocratic assets. In other words, the effects of social origin on class destination were expected to diminish over time. Nevertheless, social stratification scholars have for many years called into question this theory, demonstrating that these developments led to little or no change in equality of opportunity (Erikson and Goldthorpe 1992; Shavit and Blossfeld 1993). Subsequently, new research, carried out with new methods and / or new data, has argued that several countries did indeed experience an increase in equality of opportunity across the 20th century (Breen 2004; Breen et al. 2009; Breen and Jonsson 2007; Vallet 1999; Thélot and Vallet 2000; Erikson and Jonsson 1996; Shavit and Westerbeek 1998; Jonsson and Erikson 2000; Sieben, Huinink, and de Graaf 2001). In the case of Switzerland, the few existing studies carried out on this topic concluded that there is a persistence of inequality of opportunity (Levy et al. 1997; Levy, Joye, and Kaufmann 1997; Joye, Bergman, and Lambert 2003; Bergman, Joye, and Fux 2002; Buchmann and Charles 1993), but it must be noted that some of these conclusions are limited to a short time frame or a specific population. Furthermore, recent research refuted the theories of the decline of social class, suggesting that social mobility is still very limited in Switzerland (Tillmann and Budowski 2007; Tillmann 2010). Therefore, based on this, I address the following question: is inequality of opportunity still persistent in Switzerland? I will answer this question by analysing the evolution of intergenerational social mobility in Switzerland over time. In order to maximize the chance to capture potential social change, I will use 12 aggregated datasets, including the two samples of the Swiss Household Panel, which I will divide into several birth cohorts born between the early 20th century and the 1970s. More precisely, I will test whether the relationship between social origin and social destination has changed between cohorts using log-linear and log-multiplicative models which “serve as a measure of social fluidity and control for the fact that class distributions may differ due to changes in the marginal distributions of classes” (Scherer et al. 2007:9). I will emphasize the gender dimension and, where possible, distinguish social origin based on the father and mother's position. Indeed research on social mobility always tends to focus only on the transmission of social position from father to son, widely underestimating the role of mothers as well as the specific pattern of women's social mobility.

Conference name: 6th International Conference of Panel Data Users in Switzerland

Location: Univeristy of Lausanne

Start date: Jun 8, 2011

Type: Paper