IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Studying after the degree: new pathways shaped by old inequalities. Evidence from Italy, 1995-2007


  • Gianluca Argentin

    () (University of Milan-Bicocca)


In recent years in Italy, there has been a fast increase in the number of young people graduating with a tertiary degree and a sharp change in the composition of this population by gender, social origins and the field of study. Since the middle of the 90s, we have also detected a growth in the enrolment in post-tertiary education, but this is not the result of the compositional change which has occurred among graduates across cohorts. Instead, it seems mainly due to the increased offer of training and academic opportunities to the graduates: a new educational level emerged while the graduates’ rate was increasing. Until now, this new form of educational stratification has not been considered by sociological research, even if it could lead to new forms of inequality. In our paper, we primarily test the credentialist hypothesis, looking at the strength of the association between social origins and post-tertiary education among recent graduates’ cohorts. Following the credentialist theory, graduates coming from higher-educated families would be more involved in the new educational level, to maintain their advantage in the labour market, where they can take advantage of their higher credentials. Then we look at gender: we investigate whether this second ascriptive dimension plays a role in shaping enrolment at post-tertiary level. Our analyses, based on the best data available in Italy on this topic, support the credentialist hypothesis: higher social origins are associated with a greater propensity to enrol at post-tertiary education and training. Moreover, graduates coming from more educated families participated more frequently in the more institutionalized forms of post-tertiary education, the ones leading to a professional qualification. Contrary to this, gender seems not to play an influential role: the female advantage is weak and limited to the less institutionalized forms of post-tertiary education/training; moreover it almost disappears considering academic performance and horizontal stratification of upper school and university.

Suggested Citation

  • Gianluca Argentin, 2011. "Studying after the degree: new pathways shaped by old inequalities. Evidence from Italy, 1995-2007," Working Papers 45, AlmaLaurea Inter-University Consortium.
  • Handle: RePEc:laa:wpaper:45

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: First version, 2011
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 1998. "Life Cycle Schooling and Dynamic Selection Bias: Models and Evidence for Five Cohorts of American Males," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(2), pages 262-333, April.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:laa:wpaper:45. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.