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Professor Bernardi

Research Projects

1) Family Dynamics and Inequalities in Children’s Life Chances

This project is a work-package within a large FP7 project (FamiliesAndSocieties) 2013-2017. It is codirected with Juho Härkönen (Stockholm University). Researchers from seven European universities participate in it. The main objective of this project is the analysis of the effects of family forms and dynamics on children’s short- and long-term welfare. In doing so, the work package also investigates how families contribute to the intergenerational reproduction of inequality. We address the main objective by analysing five partial ones:

  • Analyze effects of various forms of family configurations. Most studies have analyzed the effects of experiencing parental divorce or growing up in a single family. However, as family forms are becoming more complex, there is increasing need to understand the effects of this family diversity on children’s lives.
  • Analyze the causal effects of family forms and dynamics. Although a lot is known about the associations between family forms and dynamics and children’s outcomes, a lot remains to be learned about causal effects of these forms and dynamics on children’s lives. We use high-quality data accompanied by advanced methodology to analyze these causal effects.
  • Analyze parenting and social relationships in family diversity. How social relations and care are arranged in diversifying families remains a question of great interest. We analyze how family forms and dynamics affect the relationships between children and their parents and grand-parents.
  • Analyze heterogeneity of effects in different cultural and socioeconomic groups. The majority of the existing studies focus on homogeneous populations or average effects over diverse ones. We analyse whether some socioeconomic or cultural groups are better endowed in dealing with the consequences of different family forms and dynamics.
  • Analyze differences across countries and periods. There are strong reasons to expect variation in the effects of family diversity on children’s lives across countries and periods, yet limited empirical evidence.

2) Level and Inequality in Educational Returns in Europe

This comparative project studies the level and inequality in educational returns in Europe. It covers three large and interrelated areas. First, we analyse inequalities in educational returns in the labour market (LM) in contemporary post-industrial societies. Are ascribed characteristics (such us social class of origins, gender and ethnicity) increasingly important to explain success in the LM, besides the level of education that an individual might achieve? We address this general question in two ways. On the one hand, we study whether ascribed characteristics have a direct effect on occupational achievement, net of educational achievement and whether these effects have changed over time. On the other hand, we investigate whether educational returns in the labour market depend on the same set of ascribed characteristics, i.e. whether the same educational title has a different value in the LM depending on the social background, gender and ethnicity. Secondly, it studies educational returns outside the labour market such us health, quality of marital life, civic participation.  A comparison with the results of the comparative analysis of educational returns in the LM will enable us to have a firmer understanding of the role played by education in the structuring of social inequality in contemporary societies. Finally, we investigate the mechanisms underlying inequality in educational returns in the LM and non LM returns. In other words, we try to explain the findings of the first two areas of the project. We focus specifically on cognitive skills, cultural capital and discrimination.

This project was launched in March 2010, within the activities of EQUALSOC Network of Excellence funded by the European Union’s Sixth Framework Programme. The original financed proposal included the following researchers: G. Ballarino (University of Milan), C. Barone (University of Trento), J. Härkönen (SOFI, Sweden) A. Holm (DPU, Aarhus), M. Meier (DPU, Aarhus), D. Reimer (DPU, Aarhus), I. Kogan (University of Mannheim), R. Pollak (WZB Berlin) . H. van de Werfhorst (University of Amsterdam), M Wolbers University Nijmegen), M. Yaish (University of Haifa), L. Ortiz (UPF). The group has been expanding over the last year and a number of additional researchers have joined one of the three areas of the project.

The background paper for this project is:

Bernardi, F. (2012), Social origins and inequality in educational returns in the labour market in Spain, EUI Working Paper, SPS 2012/05.

3) Social mobility and educational attainment during the 20th century

 Participants: Bernardi, Barone, Breen, Luijkx, Müller, Pollak, Vallet.

The aim of this project it to assess the changes that have occurred over the 20th century in (a) inequality, according to social class, in educational attainment; and (b) the role played by education in the reproduction of social advantage from generation to generation. It particular examines the effects of educational expansion and changes in education inequality for social mobility and social fluidity in Europe: In the work so far, it has been established, that in practically all of the countries studied by the project, class inequality in educational attainment has declined in the course of the 20th century. The core issue now is, whether declining class inequality in educational attainment is also responsible for more social fluidity or whether changes in social fluidity result from other developments in education, such as the marked expansion of education, and the corresponding increase in the general level of education. Expansion alone could have been sufficient to generate increased equality in the competition for different class destinations among people coming from different class origins. This is because, in many countries, the influence of class origin on class destination is much weaker among people with high levels of education than among those with low levels. This specific issue is examined in comparative ways – analytically and with simulation models – along side with analyses of the general role of education for changes across time in social fluidity. The countries analysed include France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK. This project was financed by of EQUALSOC Network of Excellence funded by the European Union’s Sixth Framework Programme. 

4) Compensatory Advantage and Inequality in Educational Opportunities

This project focuses on mechanisms underlying inequality in educational opportunities. It studies how the family of origin might activate in order to compensate for a ‘false step’ in the early stage of young people’s educational careers. This compensatory effect of social background can be described as the likelihood of having ‘a second chance’ for further educational attainment in case of failure to complete a given educational level on time, early placement in non-academic tracks or, more generally, achievement of bad grades.

The projects focuses on two aspects. First, it addresses the endogeneity problem that affects the estimates of the compesatory effect. Second, it investigates the micro mechanisms underlying the compesatory advantage.

Some of the ideas of the project can be found in:

Bernardi, F. (2012), “Unequal transitions: selection bias and the compensatory effect of social background in educational careers”, Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, accepted for publication. 30, 2, 159–174.Advanced access: 

Bernardi, F. and Cebolla, H. (2013), “Previous school results and social background: compensation and imperfect information in educational transitions”, under review.

Other yet unpublished papers or drafts have been presented at the ECSR conferences and RC28. If you are interested in knowing more about these papers, just email me.

5) Change in the Post-industrial Occupational Structure and Social Inequality

The aim of this project is to investigate the implications of occupational change towards a post-industrial society for social inequality. In particular, it investigates whether a new type of unskilled service class is likely to emerge as a distinct social class.  It starts by focusing on the Spanish case. First occupational class coding are update and harmonized over time and then they applied to the Spanish Labour Force data since the late 70s to analyse trends in the occupational and class structure. Second, the analysis is extended to other EU countries using EU Labour force data.

This project is part of a larger project funded by the Spanish Government Agency CICYT , “Occupational stratification and educational performance in Spain: Job-skills match, immigration, and retirement”, 2010-2012, director: Luis Garrido (UNED).

The background paper for this project is:

Bernardi, F. and Garrido, L. (2008), “Is there a new post-industrial proletariat? Post-industrial employment growth and social inequality in Spain”, European Sociological Review, 24 (3), 299-313.

Recent Publications

Bernardi, F. and Gil-Hernández, C. (forthcoming) “The Social-Origins Gap in Labour Market Outcomes: Compensatory and Boosting Advantages Using a Micro-Class Approach”, European Sociological Review, jcaa034, 

Bernardi, F. and Triventi, M. (2020), “Compensatory advantage in educational transitions. Trivial or substantial? A simulated scenario analysis”, Acta Sociologica, 63, 1: 40-62.

Bernardi, F. and Comolli, C. (2019), “Parental separation and children’s educational attainment: Heterogeneity and rare and common educational outcomes”, Journal of Family Research, 1: 3-26.

Bernardi, F., Boertien, D. and Geven, K., (2019), “Childhood Family Structure and the Accumulation of Wealth across the Life Course”, Journal of Marriage and Family, 81: 230-247.

Boertien, D. and Bernardi, F. (2019), “Same-Sex Parents and Children’s School Progress: An Association That Disappeared over Time.” Demography, 56: 477-501.

Bernardi, F., Hertel, F., Yastrabov, G., (2018), “A U-turn in inequality in collegeattainment by parental education in the US? ”, Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 58: 33-43.

Bernardi, F. and Boertien, D. (2017), “Explaining Conflicting Results in Research on the Heterogeneous Effects of Parental Separation on Children’s Educational Attainment According to Social Background”, European Journal of Population, 33, 2: 243-266.

Härkönen, J., Bernardi, F. and Boertien, D. (2017), “Family Dynamics and Child Outcomes: An Overview of Research and Open Questions”, European Journal of Population, 33, 2: 163-184.

Bernardi, F. and Boertien, D. (2017), “Non-intact families and diverging educational destinies: A decomposition analysis for Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States”, Social Science Research, 63, 181-191.

Bernardi, F., Chakhaia, L. and Leopold, L. (2017), “Sing Me a Song With Social Significance”: The (mis)use of statistical significance testing in European sociological research”, European Sociological Review, 33, 1:1-15.

[28] Bernardi, F. and Boertien, D. (2016), Understanding Heterogeneity in the Effects ofParental Separation on Educational Attainment in Britain: Do Children from LowerEducational Backgrounds Have Less to Lose?, European Sociological Review, 32, 6: 807-819.

Ballarino, G., Bernardi F. (edited): Education, Occupation and Social OriginA Comparative Analysis of the Transmission of Socio-Economic Inequalities. Elgar 2016

Comolli, C. and Bernardi, F. (2015), The causal effect of the great recession on childlessness of white American women, IZA Journal of Labour Economics.

Bernardi, F. and Graetz, M. (2015), Making Up for an Unlucky Month of Birth in School: Causal Evidence on the Compensatory Advantage of Family Background in England, Sociological Science, 2: 235-251. 

Triventi, M., Panichella, N., Ballarino, G., Barone, C. and Bernardi, F. (2015), Education as a positional good: Implications for social inequalities in educational attainment in Italy, Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, Available online as from 18 April 2015:

Bernardi, F. (2014), “Compensatory Advantage as a Mechanism of Educational Inequality. A Regression Discontinuity Based on Month of Birth”, Sociology of Education, 87, (2), 74-88. 

Bernardi, F. and Cebolla-Boado, H. (2014), “Previous school results and social background: Compensation and imperfect information in educational transitions”, European Sociological Review, 30, (2), 207-217.

Bernardi, F. and Ballarino, G. (2014), “Participation, equality of opportunity and returns to tertiary education in contemporary Europe”, European Societies, 16, (2), 422-442.

Bernardi, F. and Radl, J. (2014), “The long-term consequences of parental divorce for children’s educational attainment”, Demographic Research, 30, 1653-1680.

Bernardi, F. and Cebolla-Boado, H. (2014), “Clase social de origen y rendimiento escolar como predictores de las trayectorias educativas”, Revista Española de Investigaciones Sociológicas, 146, 3-22.


Published Working Papers:

Bernardi, F., Härkänen, J, Boertien, D. (2013), Effects of family forms and dynamics on children well-being and life chances: literature review,"FamiliesandSocieties" Working Paper Serie (4)

Bernardi, F. (2012), Social origins and inequality in educational returns in the labour market in Spain, EUI Working Paper, SPS 2012/05.

Bernardi, F. and Ballarino, G. (2011), “Participation, equality of opportunity and returns to tertiary education  in contemporary Europe”, AlmaLaurea working paper n. 10, September 2011


Seminars and Workshops

Working Group on Social and Economic Inequality  

The working group defines inequality in a very broad sense. We have presentations on the following non-exhaustive list of topics related to social and economic inequality: inequality of educational opportunities, post-industrial class structure, gender inequality, ethnic penalties in education and in the labour market, labour market transitions, happiness, poverty and family dynamics. We welcome participation and presentations from fellows and researchers of other departments working on related topics. (IWG is convened by Professors Fabrizio Bernardi and Juho Härkönen. Please contact María Del Mar Cañizares Espadafor or Risto Conte Keivabu)

Please check the working group webpage for more information.


Former (Joint-) Supervisees, Current Position and Theses

Berkay Özcan (2008) (Lecturer LSE), The Effects of Marital Transitions and Spousal Characteristics on Economics Outcomes, UPF. (co-supervision with Gøsta Esping-Andersen)

Alvaro Martinez Perez (2010) (Lecturer in International and Comparative Social Research Methods, University of Sheffield), Couple Relationships: The Effect on Education on Gender Equality, ISER Essex (co-supervision with Malcolm Brynin)

Jonas Radl (2010) (Associate Professor, Carlos III, Madrid), Retirement Timing and Social Stratification: A Comparative Study of Labor Market Exit and Age Norms in Western Europe, EUI (co-supervision with Martin Kohli)

Jenny Hannson (2013) (Marie Curie Research Fellow, Birkbeck, University of London), Gender Inequality among Political Elites in Comparative Perspective, EUI

Alexi Gugushvili (2014) (Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford) Trends, Covariates and Consequences of Intergenerational Social Mobility in Post-Socialist Societies, EUI (co-supervision with Martin Kohli)

Juana Lamote de Grignon Pérez (2015) (Post-doctoral Researcher in Behavioural Tracing, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences & Centre for Time Use Research, Oxford), Time Use, Income and Social Class: Shedding Light on the Social Foundations of Subjective Well Being, EUI

Carolina Zuccotti (2015) (Research Fellow to the MEDAM project, Migration Policy Centre, European University Institute), Social Mobility and Spatial Segregation among Ethnic Minorities in Great Britain, EUI

Michael Grätz (2015) (Post-doctoral Researcher, Nuffield College, Oxford) Family Characteristics, Social Origin, and Educational Outcome, EUI

Chiara Comolli (2016) (Post-doctoral Researcher, Stockholm University), Fertility in Time of Economic Crisis. The Great Recession effects on childbearing in the US, EUI

Macarena Ares Abalde (2017) (Post-doctoral Researcher, University of Zurich), A new working class? A cross-national and a longitudinal approach to class voting in post-industrial societies, EUI (co-supervision with Hanspeter Kriesi)

Anne Christine Holtmann (2017) (Research Fellow, WZB Berlin), Why are children from disadvantaged families left behind? The impacts of families, schools, and education systems on students’ achievement, EUI 

Marit Rebane (2017) (Lecturer, Tallinn University of Technology), The Start of Inequality. Evidence from Italian Time-Use Data, EUI

Mathilde Maria Van Ditmars (2017) (Post-doctoral Researcher, Leiden University), Family and Politics. The enduring inflluence of the parental home in the development and transmission of political ideology, EUI (co-supervision with Alexander Trechsel)

Lela Chakhaia (2018), Educational Inequalities in Transition: The Cases of Russia and Georgia

Olga Griaznova (2018), Do origins matter? The effect of geographical and social mobilityon preferences for redistribution

Estelle Herbaut (2018) (Post-doctoral Researcher, OSC), From access to attainment: patterns of social inequality and equity policies in higher education

Gordey Yastrebov (2019) (Post-doctoral Researcher, University of Bamberg), The Demographic Echo of War and Social Mobility in Russia

Giuliana Giuliani (2020), Who is older? Gender and age differences in heterosexual couples

Carlos Javier Gil Hernandez (2020), Cracking Meritocracy from the Starting Gate. Social Inequality in Skill Formation and School Choice

Ilze Plavgo (2021) (Research Associate, European University Institute). "Education for all, graduation for some. Trends and determinants of intergenerational educational inequality in sub-Saharan Africa"

Current Ph.D. Supervision

Lea Kröger (cohort 2014): "A multilevel approach to intergenerational mobility: Inter-family and intra‐family labor market inequality in Germany"

Diana Galos (cohort 2015): "Lost in Transition: The Negative Effects of Underemployment and Unemployment on the Social Psychological Wellbeing of Recent Graduates"

Marco Cozzani (cohort 2016): "Early life health and adult socioeconomic position. The role of welfare regimes and families in a life course perspective"

Timothée Pierre Jules Chabot (cohort 2017) "Social mixity and peer interactions at school. The impact of spatial segregation on the relational preferences of secondary school European students"

María Del Mar Cañizares Espadafor (cohort 2018) "Early intervention: a window for equality of opportunities?"

Risto Conte Keivabu (cohort 2018) "Tertiary education choice: between vocation and employability. A macro and micro level analysis"

Alessandro Ferrara (cohort 2019) "The Migrant Aspiration Paradox: Explaining broken ambitions and their effects on migrant integration"

Marcus Theron Jewel Mattias Immonen Hagley (cohort 2019) "Effect of sibling's death on economic and demographical outcomes"


Page last updated on 10 March 2021

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