Academic Nepotism in Italy

9 August 2011 at 9:46 am 1 comment

| Lasse Lien |

In case you wonder the author of this paper — Stefano Allesina — works in Chicago:

Abstract: Nepotistic practices are detrimental for academia. Here I show how disciplines with a high likelihood of nepotism can be detected using standard statistical techniques based on shared last names among professors. As an example, I analyze the set of all 61,340 Italian academics. I find that nepotism is prominent in Italy, with particular disciplinary sectors being detected as especially problematic. Out of 28 disciplines, 9 – accounting for more than half of Italian professors – display a significant paucity of last names. Moreover, in most disciplines a clear north-south trend emerges, with likelihood of nepotism increasing with latitude. Even accounting for the geographic clustering of last names, I find that for many disciplines the probability of name-sharing is boosted when professors work in the same institution or sub-discipline. Using these techniques policy makers can target cuts and funding in order to promote fair practices.

Allesina, S. (2011). “Measuring Nepotism through Shared Last Names: The Case of Italian Academia.” PLoS ONE 6(8): e21160. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021160

Entry filed under: - Lien -, Corporate Governance, Education, Ephemera, Papers. Tags: .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Michael Marotta  |  12 August 2011 at 7:45 am

    “Nepotistic practices are detrimental for academia. … Using these techniques policy makers can target cuts and funding in order to promote fair practices.”

    Those are two different issues. The assumption is that nepotism is independent of merit. I wonder how the Johann Sebastian Bach or Leon Bernoulli families would reply.

    We see this in American universities, as well, that the children of professors become professors; and in all crafts, trades, and callings, perhaps. It is not clear what the “nepotism threshhold” should be.

    The question of merit remains unaddressed. That hits on the second target, at the close. If administrators are to cut funding, who gets the cut, the older first cousin or the younger niece, and why?

    As for the nieces, tracking family names is great for men in a patriarchy, but associations among related females will be masked, of course.

    Also, we know that Italy is one of many “high context” societies, where social relationships are important. Our own “low context” individualism could be the subject of a study showing a shocking lack of family ties, indicative of weak attachments and hence of lowered ethical and moral behavior. (Just a suggestion…)

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