Keywords: Educational Expansion; Educational Inequality; Meritocracy; Social Mobility; Returns to Education.
In this article we assess whether changes in educational participation have fostered changes in social fluidity in Italy over the twentieth century. We have built a cumulative dataset that harmonizes six separate surveys and covers six different cohorts with multiple points of observation. By means of log-linear unidiff models and of multinomial logistic regressions, we show that a signifi- cant decline of schooling inequalities during the so-called economic miracle fuelled an increase in social fluidity, in a context where relative returns to education have declined very slowly. Direct inheritance also declined to some extent in the post-war period. These equalising trends involved primarily, though not exclusively, the agricultural classes that accounted for a large share of the population in the post-war period. However, by incorporating recent cohorts we are also able to show that all these trends have flattened out in the youngest cohorts. While this selective equalisation does not disprove the picture of inertia of the so-called OED triangle described by previous studies, our results indicate that social fluidity is more amenable to change than it was previously suggested.