Book Review: Education, Occupation and Social Origin: A Comparative Analysis of the Transmission of Socio-Economic Inequalities by Fabrizio Bernardi and Gabriele Ballarino.

Author:Campbell, Matthew
Position:Book review
 
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Bernardi, Fabrizio, and Gabriele Ballarino, eds. Education, Occupation and Social Origin: A Comparative Analysis of the Transmission of Socio-Economic Inequalities. Northampton: Edward Elgar, 2016. xiv + 292 pages. Hardcover, $135.00.

The discussion of socio-economic inequalities has permeated the literature on education for the past several decades. In Education, Occupation and Social Origin: A Comparative Analysis of the Transmission of Socio-Economic Inequalities, sociologists Fabrizio Bernardi and Gabriele Ballarino probe the education-based meritocracy (EBM) theory where education becomes the social equalizer. This idea has long permeated different circles but this comparative study takes a look at the social origin--education--outcome triangle and sets out to better understand the "intergenerational transmission of advantage" in fourteen developed counties (p. 3). The authors focus specifically on the relationship between the socio-economic status of the individual and his or her parents as well as the idea that education is the 'great equalizer' in occupational achievement. They assert that if, on average, affluent individuals are receiving the better jobs, then the social equalizer theory is disproved. In fact, the data that connects individual family income, education, and occupational outcome clearly show that regardless of education an individual's job level is still largely associated with their social origin. Thus, the idea of a meritocratic society is largely a fiction.

Fabrizio and Ballarino build on studies dealing with the increase in equality with educational opportunities such as Shavit et al.'s (2007) Stratification in Higher Education. The current study fills a gap in the literature on studies of social mobility and educational opportunities, adding a nuance with a comparative approach and asking in-depth questions that help educational researchers understand the issue from multiple locations and perspectives. In each of the fourteen countries that were studied there were four main questions that framed the study which centered around: 1) the correlation between origins and outcomes when individuals have the same educational background; 2) the patterns of intergenerational...

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