Current projects

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.

EQUALOPP - Liberal and radical equality of opportunity

Research team: Michael Grätz, Alicia Garcia Sierra (Unil), Sonia Petrini (Unil)

A large body of literature investigates how advantages in resources such as education, occupation, income, and wealth are passed on from one generation to another. This research is motivated by the idea that the intergenerational transmission of advantageous resources is at odds with the normative ideal of equality of opportunity. However, the relationship between the normative ideal of equality of opportunity and the empirical measures of intergenerational transmission is rarely made explicit and many researchers in this field avoid using a normative language and referring to equality of opportunity altogether.

This project addresses this major limitation of research on social stratification. The first innovation of EQUALOPP is to acknowledge that different conceptions of equality of opportunity, motivated by the literature in sociology, philosophy, political science, and economics, have to be distinguished. I distinguish between liberal and radical equality of opportunity.

The second innovation is that I relate these different conceptions of equality of opportunity to different empirically measurable concepts. The project will measure these empirical concepts using multiple data sources from five European countries and the United States. The empirical analyses will address three questions of major importance for the social sciences:

(1) Do liberal and radical equality of opportunity vary across countries?

(2) Have liberal and radical equality of opportunity increased across cohorts?

(3) Can educational reforms and societal changes affect liberal and radical equality of opportunity?

EQUALOPP will advance our understanding of equality of opportunity. It will both broaden our theoretical understanding of equality of opportunity and provide new and more reliable empirical measures of equality of opportunity. Finally, the empirical analyses will provide an up-to-date picture of equality of opportunity in Europe and the United States.


Equipe de recherche : Stephanie Steinmetz (Unil), Flavia Fossati (IDHEAP), Jeremy Kuhnle (Unil)

Ce projet étudie, en collaboration avec des équipes de recherche hautement renommées de neuf universités et centres de recherche européens, pourquoi et dans quelle mesure les minorités ethniques, raciales et religieuses sont exposées à des comportements discriminatoires et à des attitudes préjudiciables dans de multiples domaines de la vie, et ce dès la naissance.

Les chercheur·es étudieront comment cette constante exposition s'accumule tout au long de la vie et perpétue la position subordonnée des minorités au fil des générations. Pour les sociétés qui s'efforcent d'être inclusives et de garantir l'égalité des chances pour tous leurs membres, ce modèle structurel et cumulatif de désavantages est une préoccupation majeure. La principale contribution d'EQUALSTRENGTH est d'étudier les formes cumulatives et structurelles de discrimination, les préjugés à l'égard des groupes marginaux et les crimes de haine, entre autres, d'un point de vue transversal et intersectionnel. 

Site du projet EqualStrength


FamyCH - Family Custody Arrangements and Child Well-Being in Switzerland

Research team : Joëlle Darwiche (Unil), Laura Bernardi (Unil), Thierry Rossier (Unil), Magdalena Spasic (Unil)

In Switzerland, children grow up in various family arrangements (e.g. sole custody, shared custody) following the separation or divorce of their parents. We still know little about the impact of these arrangements on children's well-being, and whether they are stable over time. Drawing on knowledge from social demography, psychology, architecture and law, this interdisciplinary project will study the interdependent effects of four key dimensions on children's well-being: the socio-structural dimension related to social inequalities, the relational dimension in relation to family dynamics, the spatial dimension linked to children's mobility and housing structure, and finally, the legal dimension linked to custody arrangements decisions. Data will be collected through a large longitudinal survey to provide data at the national level and through a daily study to document whether and how conflicts between parents impact family relationships and child well-being.

OBELIS-WED - Open Elite Data Project

Research team: Felix Bühlmann (Unil), Anne-Sophie Delval (Unil), Steven Piguet (Unil), Glen Lomax (Unil)

The « Swiss Elite Observatory » ( has developed an internationally unique social science database, which has collected extensive information on over 35’000 members of political, economic, cultural and academic elites from 1890 to 2020. It includes data on social origins, education, career, military rankings, positions in committees and associations, prizes and family relationships of Swiss elites. It is connected to other national and international data platforms (Dodis, Swiss historical dictionary, and serves as the basis of a large, international and diverse number of research endeavours. In average, the Swiss Elites database is visited by 1300 individual users per week and is also part of a large “citizen science” project. The objective of this project is to: 1) adopt the existing database and to render it fully compatible with the FAIR and open data principles. 2) enlarge and strengthen the scientific communities studying elites with an active and outreaching community management and the organization of regular ORD training offers (summerschool, course modules, etc.) 3) roll out to and merge its data architecture with a wider project, the World Elite Database (WED), the leading international database on elites and the super-rich. Through this project we will set the standards for ODR data management and ODR data use in large prosopographical social science databases. It will allow a large international research community to understand the political, economic and environmental challenges by studying elites, their decisions and their influence and become a critical resource for many journalistic initiatives and non-gouvernmental organizations.


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.


PROFEM - Improving Female Migrants' Labour Market Positioning - An Intersectional Approach to Occupational Segregation Processes Across Countries and Over Time

PROFEM applies a cross-national, multi-method and multi-level research design which allows to

  • improve measures of gender-migrational occupational segregation and develop a typology of segregation regimes in the EU;
  • examine the influence of educational fields and specializations on gender-migrational occupational distribution;
  • explore the impact of changes in the gender-migrational occupational composition on wages; 
  • analyse the management of gender-migrational differences in companies; 
  • address the impact of institutional contexts on the maintenance of gender/migrant differences. 
SWIFI - Transformation of Swiss Finance: an Analysis of three Power Configurations

In the 20th century, a blend of domestic personal banking and wealth management for very rich international clients, profiting from Switzerland’s banking secrecy, dominated the Swiss financial sector. Since the 1990, this business strategy was completed by the participation of the two large Swiss banks in the market of American investment banking. Two of these central pillars of Swiss banking collapsed in recent years: while the financial crisis forced UBS and Credit Suisse to retire largely from US investment banking, the Swiss banking secrecy got broken in 2014 by the international pressure for harmonized fiscal policies. At the same time, supported by the Swiss governments, new actors entered the scene of Swiss finance and proposed alternative strategies: fintech, crypto, private equity/ venture funds and independent wealth managers. These actors of “alternative finance” were smaller, relied on different organizational models and championed future-oriented business models.

Based on a field theoretical model we seek to analyze how these new actors (whom we call “challengers”) enter the Swiss financial field and how they try to assert themselves against the established bankers (the “incumbents”). We focus on three questions relating to three specific power configurations within Swiss finance:

  1. Early careers and career ambitions in the Swiss field of finance:
    Studying the graduates of the major master’s programs in “finance” at Swiss Universities between 2005 and 2015 (n=3000), we investigate early career trajectories with sequence analysis and their ambitions with qualitative interviews (n=30). We ask how early trajectories and career ambitions of young professional refer to incumbent and challenging finance sectors and what these career decisions tell us on their relative status.
  2. Positions and dispositions of Swiss financial elites:
    Based on a prosopographic sample (n=1000) of elites from both incumbent firms (banks) and challenging firms (fintech, private equity, venture capital, independent wealth managers), we study the hierarchical structures within the Swiss finance field with multiple correspondence analysis and then investigate if these structural relationships are linked to specific representations (of finance, interests and strategies) with qualitative interviews (n=30). We ask which oppositions and hierarchies structure the space of positions of the top-managers in the Swiss financial fields and how these positions are related to incumbent and challenging sectors.
  3. The political project of Swiss finance:
    To understand the political positions of traditional banking vs. alternative finance we study the participation of the institutional representatives of these sectors in the pre-parliamentary consultation of the financial policy in Switzerland between 2000 and 2020.

Using a combination of topical modelling and multiple correspondence analysis, we analyze the most important policy projects, identify the policy strategies of incumbents and challengers (including their broader political coalitions) and investigate (with a text-reuse approach) who’s positions prevail in the final versions of the law. This research project investigates a decisive transformation of an emblematic sector of Switzerland’s economy. Its innovative research design sheds light on both structural changes and individual representations and studies how they interact.

Important link:

Project page on the SNSF website