Fields of study and graduates’ occupational outcomes in Italy during the 90s. Who won and who lost?
Research on the transition from school to work is increasingly focusing on the horizontal stratification of educational systems, that is on how different educational tracks have an effect on students’ occupational chances. In the case of tertiary education, this means analyzing how different fields of study (faculties) make a difference in this transition, and how this difference varies in time. This paper studies how recent economic and social changes affected the role of undergraduate field of study in Italy. Two contrasting hypotheses are considered. The first one comes from the economic literature on “skill-biased technological change” and suggests that contemporary societies should give a premium to scientific and technical degrees, because of increasing competition in technological innovation. The second one, based on sociological theories of the “information economy”, suggests that contemporary societies should give a premium to academic degrees because of the increasing economic role of general, social and relational skills. Data come from four surveys of university graduates’ occupational careers that the Italian National Statistical Institute (Istat) has conducted from 1995 to 2004. By means of multivariate analyses of the quality of the occupational transitions, the paper will state how the effect of different fields of study on the transition has changed, and which one of the two contrasting hypotheses is better suited to account for this change
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