Social and economic inequalities shape the well being and reproductive choices of families around the world. My research focuses on the role of work, family, and the welfare state to explore a complex process of economic inequality, in which gender and educational differences in employment lead those from more disadvantaged groups or those facing a high work-family trade-off  to experience lower well being and postpone or forego childbearing – outcomes which ultimately challenge our aging societies.



Early careers of managers and young professionals

Dissertation, with Prof. Johannes Steyrer and Prof. Dudo von Eckardstein (2004-2007)

Social reproduction is a key mechanism in the transition from the education system to the labor market and in the reproduction of professional fields. My dissertation investigated university and polytechnic graduate students’ transition to a variety of professional fields and the role socioeconomic background played in the uncertainty of subsequent early careers. Quantitative methods on two waves of the Vienna Career Panel Project were used to explore associations between graduate students’ social background and personality traits, career aspirations, and early career success in managerial and professional fields.

“Early Careers of Managers and Young Professionals: An Integrative Approach to Contemporary Careers”, Publisher: Rainer Hampp.

Economic action and uncertainty

NCCR LIVES funded by SNF (2008-2012)

Pierre Bourdieu’s field and habitus approach to the economy offers rich theoretical presuppositions of the interrelationship between social structure and agency, but they have not yet been sufficiently integrated into economic sociology. This piece of socioeconomic thought outlines the key theoretical assumptions of this approach in relation to those of the embeddedness tradition. Bringing the elements of field and habitus to the center of attention helps in examining how cognitive and historical factors matter for explaining individual action. It integrates different notions of uncertainty in economic literature into the discussion of the underlying action principles of the Bourdieuian approach.

“Economic Action, Fields, and Uncertainty”. Journal of Economic Issues.

A second paper elaborates on economic uncertainty as a recurring concept in economics and economic sociology – from Knight to Beckert – and asks if individual decisions are sufficiently explained by rational choice. Drawing from the seminal work by Pierre Bourdieu on field theory, I discuss cognitive and structural parameters in human conduct and underline the potential of uncertainty to stimulate the emergence of the creative, original, and new.

Field Theory: Taking Bourdieu to Envisioned Futures”, in volume “Rethinking Economics: Exploring the Work of Pierre Bourdieu”. Publisher: Routledge.

Literature review and text mining in social and management sciences

with Dario Spini and Laura Bernardi, NCCR LIVES funded by SNF (2008-2014)

Changes in human lives are studied in psychology, sociology, and adjacent fields as outcomes of developmental processes, institutional regulations and policies, culturally and normatively structured life courses, or empirical accounts. However, such studies have used a wide range of complementary, but often divergent, concepts. Applying correspondence analysis to 10,632 scientific abstracts we report on the structure that has emerged from scientific life course research by focusing on abstracts from longitudinal and life course studies beginning with the year 2000. Second, we assess the value of the concept of ‘vulnerability’ as a heuristic tool for studying human lives.

“Vulnerability as a heuristic for interdisciplinary research: Assessing the thematic and methodological structure of empirical life course studies”, Longitudinal and Life Course Studies (co-authored by Laura Bernardi and Dario Spini).

For a similar analysis applied to expatriate research see:

“Women and International Assignments: A Systematic Literature Review Exploring Textual Data by Correspondence Analysis”, Journal of Global Mobility, first author Xavier Salamin. Paper has received the 2015 Emerald Literati Network Award for Excellence as Highly Commanded Paper.

Consequences of economic uncertainty: Work, gender, and fertility

with Laura Bernardi, Jean-Marie Le Goff and colleagues (2011-2014)

The question, what explains the substantive delay in parenthood that characterizes the latest demographic developments in highly developed countries is a leading research area in sociology and demography. In my work, I seek to provide a better understanding how employment conditions guide intentions to have children and subsequent behavior. For this purpose, I exploit data from the Swiss Household Panel (SHP), the Generations and Gender Survey (GGS), and the qualitative survey of the Devenir Parent project (directed by Jean-Marie Le Goff).

“Constructions of Motherhood and Fatherhood in Switzerland.” (Bühlmann, F., N. Girardin, D. Hanappi, J.M. Le Goff, and I. Valarino), in: Transition to Parenthood in Europe: Analyzing Gender and Labor Divisions edited by D. Grunow, M. Evertsson. London: Edward Elgar.

“Precarious Work and the Fertility Intention-Behavior Link: An Analysis Based on the Swiss Household Panel Data.” ISSN number 2296-1658, LIVES Working Papers, 2012/17. (co-authored by V.-A. Ryser, L. Bernardi, and J.M. LeGoff).

The literature on how economic uncertainty translates into vulnerability has been dominated by the sociological study of reproduction of class and by the psychological analysis of stress. Yet, this focus does not account for the many other ways in which uncertainty may structure social outcomes. This has motivated my encyclopedia chapter, in which I discuss why men and women from more disadvantaged groups who work in precarious employment become vulnerable, thus less resilient to work stresses and family demands.

Precarious Work: Agenda and Implications for Corporate Social Responsibility”. Publisher: Springer.

Coping Strategies under precariousness in Switzerland

(funded by the EU Consortium Project FamiliesAndSocieties, University Stockholm)

Where changes in fertility timing and sequencing do not suffice in explaining low fertility, scholars typically turn to socioeconomic determinants of fertility intentions like income, employment status, or work hours. Yet, few studies have focused on the importance of job quality and its relation to gender role attitudes. We examine in what way perceived job quality in terms of job stability and prestige are associated with the intention to have a child for men and women in the low fertility context Switzerland, whether job quality matters equally for first and subsequent child intentions, and whether a gender-unequal attitude changes the effects of job quality on the childbearing intentions of men and women, using data from the Swiss Household Panel (waves 2002-2011).

“Coping Strategies under Uncertain, Precarious Employment Conditions in Switzerland.” (Hanappi, D., V.-A. Ryser, and L. Bernardi). Working Paper No. 12, FamiliesAndSocieties, Stockholm, Sweden.

Fertility and well-being in insecure times

OeAW (Austrian Academy of Science), University of California Berkeley (2014 – 2018)

The impact of inequalities in the sphere of market work affects gender differentials in reproductive decisions and wellbeing over time. The first strand of my current research in this field begins with revisiting a now classical empirical question: How are labor market conditions related to low levels of fertility? I am particularly interested in parsing out the marginal effects of economic distress from what may be the more broadly, but perhaps more weakly, felt effects of economic uncertainty. In collaboration with the Vienna Institute of Demography, we use new data from two waves of the Generations and Gender Survey (GGS) to explore cross-sectional and longitudinal implications related to work, economic constraints, and the family on men’s and women’s intentional childbearing. The second strand of my current research focuses on how household composition and parenthood drive wellbeing differentials among men and women in Austria (with  Isabella Buber-Ennser (Deputy Group Leader of ‘Demography Austria’)  from the Vienna Institute of Demography; in collaboration with Oliver Lipps from FORS (Foundation of Research in the Social Sciences, Switzerland) I conduct a comparative study on the well being impact of parents’ jobs at risk.

“Household Position, Parenthood, and Adult Self-Reported Health. Cross-sectional and Longitudinal Evidence from the Austrian Generations and Gender Survey.” (with Buber-Ennser, I.), In Family and Health in Europe: A Gender Approach. Frankfurt: Springer.

“The Role of Attitudes towards Maternal Employment in the Relationship between Job Quality and Fertility Intentions.” (co-authored by V.-A. Ryser, and L. Bernardi), Journal of Research in Gender Studies.

Job Insecurity and Parental Well-Being: The Role of Parenthood and Family Factors.” (with Oliver Lipps), Demographic Research Vol. 40 (31):897-932 (Special Issue).

When Paid Work Matters for Fertility Intentions and Subsequent Behavior: Evidence from Two Waves of the Austrian Gender and Generation Survey.” (with Buber-Ennser), Comparative Population Studies Vol(42): 219-254.

Changes in Employment Uncertainty and the Fertility Intention-Behavior Link: An Analysis based on the Swiss Household Panel Data.” ( with Ryser, Bernardi, LeGoff), European Journal of Population 33(3): 381-407. DOI: 10.1007/s10680-016-9408-y.

Measuring developmental context for learning

Jacobs Center for Productive Youth Development, JCPYD/UZH (2020-current)

Switzerland is one of the most educated countries. Still, there is considerable educational inequality within and between the regions of Switzerland. Various new studies and reports show that socioeconomic inequality in terms of access to education and learning outcomes has grown. There is where BUNAVIA comes in. I am responsible for the operative management of creating a foundation for evidence-based approaches that can reduce educational inequality in Switzerland. We have developed annual surveys to track children from kindergarten age through secondary school, with a particular focus on transitions within the educational system since these are critical points in pupil’s development. BUNAVIA is focuing on three main areas: first, how life is organized and structured outside of school; second, the values and identity of the parents; and third, the significance of family and friend networks. Thanks to BUNAVIA, the JCPYD is a partner of the Zurich Learning Progress Survey, and the Zurich Department of Education wants to use this to trace the learning and educational paths of pupils during their time in compulsory.