In a famous essay Isaiah Berlin discusses a fragment of the Greek poet Archilochus which says: ‘The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” This dichotomy is often used to classify (or self-classify) researchers into one of the two camps. I might add another simile for doing academic research: squid fishing or mushrooms picking? To fish squids one needs staying still, going deep and repeating the same gesture (and of course knowing when and where to fish). To find mushrooms one has to follow his/her curiosity, have a good sight and walk around a lot (and of course knowing when and where to look). My research is then a bit of squid fishing and mushrooms picking.
But if I have to go back to the first question, hedgehog or fox?, I would answer fox, if only for this.
I have introduced the concept of CA Compensatory advantage a mechanism of social stratification in an article in Sociology of Education 2014 (winner of the RC28 prize). The central insight of the concept of compensatory advantage (CA) is that life-course trajectories of those coming from privileged backgrounds are less dependent on prior negative outcomes. My later research presents evidence of CA in early life outcomes, educational transitions and labour market outcome. Using a decomposition method, my research also estimates the contribution of CA to social background inequality in educational transitions. I tackles the problem of the endogeneity fo prior negative outcomes or events using a regression discontinuity based on month of birth and diff-in-diff based a natural experiment (the Madrid bombing in 2004).
Union dissolution and social inequality
Union dissolution has increased substantially over the past decades. There is also evidence that in case of union dissolution there is a (small) penalty, on average, for children’s socio-economic attainment, in terms of educational achievement, occupational status and wealth. My research in this area focuses on the heterogeneity of this penalty by parental SES and its implication for intergenerational inequality. The key question that I address is, then, which children are most affected in terms of their later socio-economic outcomes, in case of parental separation. Are children from high SES families most affected or, conversely, those from low SES families? Findings suggest that the largest union dissolution penalty in terms of later outcomes is observed for children of high SES parents. In this way parental separation tends to have an equalizing effect on intergenerational inequality (contradicting an hypothesis that one can derive from the “diverging destinies thesis”).
The direct effect of social origin (DESO)
Is there a direct effect of social origin (DESO) on labour market socio-economic outcomes (social class, income, socio-economic status), net of own education? Findings from a comparative project on and published in co-edited book with G. Ballarino documebts a substantial DESO in Europe and in other OECD countries and question the notion of education as the great equalizer. Based on a micro-classes approach to a large data set for Spain other findings also show that the DESO is concentrated among non-college degree holders. They also indicate that high-grade managerial and professional parental occupations, characterized by processes of social closure and influence in large organisations, are the origin micro classes that exert the largest DESO.
Educational and social Mobility
I investigate long term trends in educational inequalities and social mobility. Findings suggest that while we observed an increase in educational inequality and social immobility over the second half of last century in Italy and Spain, more recent research also documents some hints of U turn in social immobility in USA. I am also involved in project that studies social inequality in access to ICT and ib digital skills (related to the H2020 Technequality Project).