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Here we will publish working papers, policy briefs, and scientific articles related to DIGCLASS.

Working paper series

The JRC Working paper series on Social Classes in the Digital Age (DCLASS) addresses socioeconomic and policy questions related to the role of social classes in contemporary societies, with a particular focus on the challenges posed by technological transformations. The working paper series welcomes original contributions from different disciplines, including sociology, economics and political science. In addition, both original theoretical and empirical contributions are welcome.

Working papers are useful to communicate and disseminate to a broad audience the preliminary research findings of the work developed by the team and external contributions to generate discussion and attract critical comments for further improvements. Therefore, the working papers are considered work in progress and are subject to peer-review (internal and external).

Working papers are published with a free licence, and authors can, of course, reuse the material for publication in academic journals.

Download the guidelines:

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All submissions should be in English and sent to JRC-CAS-DIGCLASS@ec.europa.eu with "Working Paper Series Submission" as the subject.

List of working papers

2022/05 Reconsidering social classes and functional income distribution in the 21st century. A theoretical and empirical assessment

Authors: Marta Fana and Davide Villani

Abstract: The original assumption behind the measurement of functional income distribution was that this measure would reflect uniquely the income allocated to different social classes. However, this straightforward dichotomy is more complicated today than it was 200 years ago for different reasons, such as the diversification of sources of income, and the role of managers. This paper proposes a new estimation of factors income distribution that is based not only on the source of income but also considers class belonging. We provide an empirical estimate for Italy (1991-2016) using the Survey on Households Income and Wealth (Bank of Italy). The revised labourers share is lower than the standard wage share. Moreover, we show that the size of the labour class is growing considerably due to the expansion of wage earners while at the same time they suffer a remarkable loss of income. Despite some labourers move towards the top of the distribution, most of the growing presence of wage income in the top of the distribution is imputable to managers.

2022/04 The Early Roots of the Digital Divide:                                                                                                    Socioeconomic Inequality in Children’s ICT Literacy from Primary to Secondary Schooling

Authors: Giampiero Passaretta and Carlos J. Gil-Hernández

Abstract: Information and communications technology (ICT) skills are crucial for labour market success and full participation in society. Socioeconomic status (SES) inequality in the development of ICT skills would prevent disadvantaged children from reaping the benefits of the digital age. Besides, the digital divide in ICT literacy might add to the already well-documented large and persistent SES inequality in ‘hard’ skills—like math, reading, and science. This article studies the roots, evolution, and drivers of SES inequality in ICT literacy from age 8 to 15 in Germany. Drawing from the German National Educational Panel Study (NEPS), we highlight five main findings: (1) SES gaps in ICT literacy exist as early as age 8 (grade 3) and are similar in size compared to SES gaps in hard skills; (2) like hard skills, SES gaps in ICT literacy remain stable over primary and tracked lower secondary schooling; (3) ICT access and use at home and school do not substantially explain SES gaps in ICT literacy at any age; (4) selection into school tracks seems a critical pathway, although not necessarily a causal one, leading to SES inequality in secondary school; (5) SES gaps in ICT literacy are not observed among children with similar levels of hard skills. We discuss the implications of these findings for the interdisciplinary literature on social stratification, skill formation, and the digital divide.

2022/03 Technology, tasks and social classes in Europe

Authors: Carlos J. Gil-Hernández, Guillem Vidal Lorda and Sergio Torrejón Pérez

Abstract: EGP (Erikson-Goldthorpe-Portocarero)-based occupational class schemas, rooted in industrial-age employment relations, are the standard measure of socioeconomic position in social stratification. Previous research highlighted EGP-based schemas’ difficulties to keep up with changing labour markets, but few tested alternative explanations. This article explores how job tasks linked to technological change and economic inequality might confound the links between employment relations, classes, and life chances. Using the European Working Conditions Survey covering the EU-27, this article analyses over time and gender (1) the task distribution between social classes; and (2) whether tasks are predictive of class membership and life chances. Decomposition analyses suggest that tasks explain class membership and wage inequality better than employment relations. However, intellectual/routine tasks and digital tools driving income inequality are well-stratified by occupational classes. Therefore, this article does not argue for a class (schema) revolution but for fine-tuning the old instrument to portray market inequalities in the digital age.

2022/02 Social classes in economic analysis. A brief historical account

Authors: Rafael Muñoz de Bustillo Llorente and Fernando Esteve Mora

Abstract: The purpose of this working paper, the first of a series of three aiming at studying social classes from an economic perspective, is to review the role played by social classes in economic analysis. With that aim, we will first discuss the use of the concept of social classes in the analysis of classical economists. Then we will present the reasons behind the abandonment of the concept of social classes as an analytical tool by the marginalist school who triumphed in the final quarter of the 19th century, changing the economic paradigm, and by mainstream economists in the 20th Century. Nevertheless, it can be argued that the classical idea of social class (based on the source of income: wages versus profits) has somehow remained alive in modern macroeconomic analysis, if in disguise, behind the concept of functional (or factorial) distribution of income. The last part of the paper reviews the role played by the functional distribution of income in current macroeconomic analysis, and studies how the evolution of the economy and labour relations in the last few decades has made the interpretation of the functional distribution of income in terms of social classes less relevant than in the past.

2022/01 Contemporary class analysis

Author: Daniel Oesch

Abstract: A popular thesis in social stratification argues that the middle class is declining. Our chapter argues that this thesis is flawed both conceptually and empirically. Conceptually, it mixes up the middle and working class and, empirically, misrepresents the trends that shape the class structure. Our chapter discusses the main concepts of class and proposes a model that grasps the class structure of contemporary Western societies. Based on clearer concepts, labour force surveys clearly show that the early 21st century did not see the demise, but the expansion of the (salaried) middle class. Never in history had so many people been working in managerial, professional and technical jobs. By contrast, over the last four decades, the working class experienced a massive employment decline – and this decline had far-reaching consequences. It has vastly reduced its political clout as shown in decreasing trade union density and strike activity as well as in rising income inequality. Moreover, it has led to a fundamental realignment of class voting and contributed to growing family instability. Rather than eroding the middle class, the last decades have put an end to the working-class century.