Academic Dynasties: Nepotism and Productivity in the Italian Academic System
Extensive anecdotal evidence suggests that practices related to familism are widespread in Italian universities. However, systematic evidence is not available since information on family relations is generally unavailable or con dential. We explore the relevance of family ties in the Italian academia as well as the relationship between familism and scientific production. We use a novel dataset on individual characteristics of professors in all Italian universities with a particular focus on the informative content of last names. We construct an academic homonymity index (AHI) by comparing the relative frequency of a last name in each academic unit (department, faculty, university) with its relative frequency in the population of the area in which the university is located derived from data from the Italian scal census. Our index provides an intuitive measure of how disproportionately common a certain last name is within a specific academic unit relative to the overall underlying population. We use our index to investigate differences across universities, regions, and disciplines in the relevance of family connections. Our preliminary results are highly consistent with the anecdotal evidence and show significant differences across regions and disciplines. Interestingly, we also find a strong negative correlation between our index of homonymity and standard measures of interpersonal trust in the area where the university is located. Finally, with regard to the relationship between the strength of family connections and academic productivity, our preliminary findings show that universities which score higher in our homonymity measure tend to be characterized by poorer academic performance, especially in terms of research achievement.
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