Falcon, J. (2013). Social mobility in 20th century Switzerland, Thèse de doctorat / PhD dissertation, Université de Lausanne, Dir. : Prof. Dominique Joye

The study of social mobility enables us to assess the extent to which a given society is “open”. Addressing this issue is particularly crucial in our democratic societies, where it is expected that the place of individuals in society should no longer be determined at birth, but rather by individual quality. The present inquiry investigates this issue in the context of Switzerland, a country characterised by specific institutional settings, notably through the close association its educational system shares with the labour market.

Through a detailed empirical analysis based on robust statistical analyses carried out from a unique tailor-made dataset, I demonstrate that Swiss society has not become more open throughout the twentieth century. Although some barriers have lost some salience, Swiss society has overall remained extremely rigid. In particular, because it channels individuals into highly segmented tracks very early on, the Swiss educational system does not attenuate social background differences. Thus, Switzerland is found in a particular configuration where an individual’s place in society is highly determined not only by his or her educational attainment, but also by his or her social background. In other words, Switzerland constitutes a sort of “non-meritocratic meritocracy”.