Current projects

WELLWAYS - Critical events and transitions in family and work and multidimensional well being

Research team: Laura Bernardi (Unil), Chiara Comolli (Unil), Marieke Voorpostel (Fors), Ariane Pailhé (Ined), Emmanuelle Cambois (Ined)


Health and well-being are not equally distributed in society. WELLWAYS investigates how events and transitions in the family and employment domains, which significantly influence health and well-being, contribute to this inequality. We study individuals’  life course to understand whether and to what extent family and work-related events interact in increasing disparities in well-being in Switzerland and France.


The main objective of the project is to explain how some individuals have a higher risk to accumulate disadvantages along their life course resulting in lower well-being and reduced health. We use data from several large surveys conducted in Switzerland and France which include information about the development of employment and family as well as information on individual levels of well-being for longer than two decades. Examining what happens in the dimensions of work and family simultaneously, we explore to what extent disadvantages in each of the two domains are interdependent. In addition, we distinguish individuals and families with fewer resources from those who are better off, assuming that the former have cumulated  greater disadvantages and face higher risks of experiencing negative events in both of the two life domains.


WELLWAYS on the one hand enriches existing research by adopting a life course research perspective and using statistical modeling techniques to analyze complex survey data that track individuals' professional and family histories over time. On the other hand, it adds on knowledge on rising inequalities in health and well-being in Switzerland and France, with the aim of providing solid empirical evidence for policy recommendations turned towards improving the well-being of vulnerable groups in our societies.

COINEQ - Coupled Inequalities. Trends and Welfare State Differences in the Role of Partner’s Socio-Economic Resources for Employment Careers

Research team: Leen Vandecasteele (Unil), Fei Bian (Unil), Luana Goveia Marx (Unil)


The aim of this project is to investigate how the socio-economic status of both partners in a couple shapes household employment patterns over the life course, in different countries and over generations.


Understanding the way in which people’s labour market success is influenced by their household members has become indispensable and timely against the background of social developments like the rise of female employment as well as the increasing trend of assortative mating and rising levels of inequality across families. The aim of this project is to better explain the reasons for heterogeneity in partner effects by examining differences across countries and over time. Previous research has examined the role of partner effects, but studies explicitly addressing the time trends and country context of partner effects are rare. Partner effects may be stronger/weaker in certain countries, after different life events and will have changed in their magnitude over generations. In order to formulate testable hypotheses, theories of the welfare state are used, next to theories of social stratification and cumulative (dis)advantage as well as theories of the division of labour within families and social capital transmission. Hypotheses are tested about how specific characteristics of the labour market and family policy influence the way in which the socio-economic position of the partner plays a role.


This research is innovative by bridging the gap between family research and labour market research. It will contribute to cutting-edge questions brought about by current and ongoing societal trends such as increased female labour market participation, increases in assortative mating, increasing wage inequality and inequalities across households. The research is based on longitudinal analyses of the British Household Panel Survey, the German Socio-Economic Panel and the European Survey of Income and Living Conditions data.

RIFELIT - The Rise of the Financial Elite – Access, Integration and Spread of Power

Research team : Fabien Foureault (Post-doc), Lena Ajdacic (Doctorante), Steven Piguet (Informaticien)

The aim of this project is to study the rise of “capital market intermediaries” as a new financial elite and to investigate the access to this group, its internal integration and the spread of its power beyond the financial sector. 

Capital market intermediaries, the senior managers or partners at the helm of large investment funds, hedge funds or private equity firms are an increasingly influential social group. Since the 1970s, starting from the US and the UK, the world economy has undergone a thorough process of financialization: after the collapse of the Bretton-Woods system, increasing financial deregulation allowed the financial industry to develop new instruments (securities, derivatives); firms increasingly funded themselves on the financial market and “profits primarily accrue(d) through financial channels rather than through trade and commodity production” (Arrighi, 1994: 174). Financialization is closely linked to – and has been fuelled by – a radical transformation of large firms, known as maximization of shareholder value. This business practice consists of concentrating on core competencies, restructuring, mergers and acquisition or hostile takeovers to raise the net worth of the firm and to distribute it to the shareholders. The shareholder value conception of the firm led to a reshuffling of the role and the power of different groups within the economic elite. We observe a relative decline of influence of top executive mangers and the relative rise of “capital market intermediaries” (Folkman et al., 2007). This group, even though endowed with a large influence on corporate strategies, political discourse and the legal framework, is surprisingly little know in sociological terms. 

Therefore, based on a prosopgraphical sample of about 1200 financial managers of the globally most important investment firms and 1000 managers of the world’s largest non-financial firms at two bench-mark years (2000 and 2015), this research projects raises three research questions: 1. What are the pathways of access to senior positions as capital market intermediaries in terms of educational level, type of education and nationality? 2. Are the financial elites different from traditional corporate managers and do they, internally, form a homogenous and cohesive group? 3. Is the power of financial elites restricted to the financial domain or does it spread to the administrative, political or academic sphere? These questions are studied with an analytical framework consisting of three dimensions of comparison: the differences between “financial elites” and “managerial elites”, the internal differences between different groups of financial elites (investment fund managers, hedge fund managers, pension fund managers, private equity managers, sovereign wealth fund managers) and the historical differences between 2000 and 2015. 

In terms of methodology, this project will collect a coherent body of data about the organizational positions, the careers and socio-demographic characteristics of these new financial elites and develop a series of innovative indicators of cohesion and influence. It will study the education, the meeting places and the (multi-)positionality of capital intermediaries with a combination of regression analyses, sequence analysis and multiple correspondence analysis. The results will make a valuable contribution to the sociology of elites, economic sociology and the sociology of inequality and, beyond academia, stimulate the public debate about the power of shareholders and capital market intermediaries – both in Switzerland and internationally. 


PONs - People-Opinion Networks

Research team : Davide Morselli (Unil), Maite Regina Beramendi (Unil), Andrès Martinez (Unil)

The PONs (People-Opinion Networks) project is a multidisciplinary research collaboration between Switzerland and South Africa, funded by the SFNS Lead Agency program. It is jointly led by Davide Morselli (University of Lausanne) and Kevin Durrheim (University of KwaZulu-Natal) and involves both social psychologists (Mike Quayle, University of Limerick) and data scientists (Bethel Murimo Mutanga, Mangosuthu University of Technology, Maria Schuld, University of KwaZulu-Natal). The goal of the PONs project is to study polarization in a framework that jointly considers opinions and the social structure. The way to do this is to link two networks, one based on opinions and one on interpersonal interactions. 

The PONs project proposes therefore multilayered representations that we call People-Opinion Networks as a method to investigate opinion-based group dynamics. It explores new methods for extracting opinion-based networks from word embeddings trained on media and social media data.

This project will be focusing on polarizing debates in Switzerland and South Africa, studying opinion and interaction around two specific events in each country between 2010 and 2020. This research collaboration between Switzerland and South Africa aims to make an original contribution to the social sciences by developing a new method to study polarization and the dynamics of social change more generally.


WIRED - Women In Research and higher Education

Rersearch team : Stephanie Steinmetz (Unil), Camilia Gaiaschi (Unil)

Over the last yeaxs, women have made significant lll academia all progless and sclence across Europe. their representation across scientific fields and ranks remalns uneVen, as they ale still under-represented 1n some STEM disciplines (science technology engineering and mathematics) and 1n senlor positions. The WIRED project In Research and higher EDucation alms at investigating gender inequalities m academia by focusing on the reasons why and the mechanisms which women at through axe disadvantage ln the career progresslon and/or they drop-out from the academic labour market. It will undertake chal this lenge by means of an VO, comparative, level inter-disciplinary multimodel and multi- research. WIRED draws its from its of uruque datz,which are the result of the combination observational longitudinal micro-data on the Swiss and Itâlian academic populations with experimental data on gender ln the selection processes. The observational field will be based on different administrative and web-based data sources, including the mlcro data on academics held by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research and by the Swiss Federal Statistical where Office, the fieldwork will be undertaken. The experimental research ls based on a vrgnette survey which will be submitted to a sample of professors m targeted Italian and Swiss of Universities, chosen on the base the results of the first part of the research. The combination of two within these methods comparative approach will provide an extremely rich and comprehensi ve understanding of gender differences ln academic career to simultaneously shed light on the mlcro, meso and macro levels of the scarcity comparative and longitudinal insights, WIRED will represent a tremendous forward ln step forward in the debate on women in academia and science. 


Les parcours de formation professionnelle au prisme du genre et de l’orientation sexuelle

Équipe de recherche : Lavinia Gianettoni (Unil), Dinah Gross (Unil)

L’objectif de ce projet est d’analyser l’impact des enjeux liés au genre et à l’orientation sexuelle sur les parcours de formation professionnelle et les ruptures d’apprentissage. La revue de la littérature montre qu'en Suisse et en Europe plusieurs recherches se sont intéressées à l'analyse des parcours de formation des jeunes et au risque de décrochage en fonction du type de formation suivie et de sa typicité du point de vue du genre. Peu de travaux ont par contre abordé ces problématiques en s’intéressant explicitement aux effets conjoints du genre et de l’orientation sexuelle des jeunes, alors même que la littérature scientifique suggère que l’orientation sexuelle et/ou le vécu de discriminations homophobes influence les processus d’orientation professionnelle. Les résultats du pré-test réalisé pour cette recherche montrent que le vécu de discriminations sexistes ou homophobes joue un rôle important dans la volonté de poursuivre une formation professionnelle. Ce projet vise à valider ces résultats dans le cadre d’une étude longitudinale intégrant également d'autres facteurs d'influence des parcours de formation, notamment le contexte plus ou moins sexiste et homophobe des filières de formation et le rôle du réseau social des jeunes. Pour cela, 1000 jeunes en formation professionnelle dans le canton de Genève seront suivis par questionnaire à trois reprises durant 3 ans. Un sous-échantillon de 40 jeunes en formation atypiques (garçons suivant une formation majoritairement investie par les filles et filles suivant une formation majoritairement investie par les garçons) ou non hétérosexuel-le-s sera interrogé par entretien semi-directifs à deux reprises. 

The Intergenerational Consequences of Demographic Behaviour: Estimating the Effects of Parental Union Formation and Fertility on Educational Mobility

The project estimates how parental demographic behaviour influences the intergenerational transmission of educational and socio-economic advantage.Leading social scientists predicted that social mobility will decrease as a consequence of increased socio-economic polarization in demographic behaviour in contemporary societies. These dramatic claims are largely untestable because they refer to future and, hence, unobservable mobility outcomes. What can and yet has to be tested, however, is whether demographic behaviour does indeed affect the intergenerational transmission of advantage. Only if this is the case, changes in demographic behaviour across cohorts can result in decreases in social mobility across cohorts. The project tests whether and how much demographic events occurring over the parental life courses, i.e. parental union formation (in particular, assortative mating) and fertility (whether there are children, parental ages in relation to their children, and number of children) affect educational mobility. We focus on educational mobility because education is an important predictor of life chances in contemporary societies. The project uses high-quality survey data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP), and the Swiss Household Panel (SHP) to estimate the effects of assortative mating, childlessness, parental ages in relation to their children, and sibship size on educational mobility. The projec sheds new light on the important topic of educational mobility.