URPP Equality of Opportunity

About the URPP Equality of Opportunity

The new University Research Priority Program (URPP) Equality of Opportunity is one of five URPPs launched in 2021. The Department of Political Science participates in the URPP in various ways: with the project “Politics of Inequality and Social Change” in module 2, with a new Assistant Professorship to start in fall 2022, with a seminar series every fall, by contributing to the transversal working group on Interdisciplinary measurement and data, and with its own “Inequality IPZ Research Fund” to support smaller projects in the field of inequality research.

The URPP Equality of Opportunity studies the economic and social changes that lead to inequality in society and the public policies that foster greater equality of opportunity. For that purpose, the URPP connects researchers from three faculties of the University of Zurich who represent the five academic disciplines of economics, law, political science, history, and philosophy. We leverage our combined academic expertise to conduct research in three interdisciplinary research modules that study distinct dimensions of equality and inequality: Economic Change, Social Change and Public Policy.

Learn more on the website of the URPP Equality of Opportunity

Social Change Module

The research module Social Change directed by Prof. Silja Häusermann studies how social norms, self-perceptions (self-categorization, group identities) and a changing economic environment shape perceptions of inequalities and thus political demand for public policies. It is necessary because objective, structural inequalities do not translate directly into perceived and politicized inequalities.

Rather, this link between structural conditions and people’s perceptions, preferences, and behavior is conditioned by both societal norms, as well as an individual's self-perception. Both social norms and self-perceptions are, in turn, shaped by narratives, discourses and programmatic claims of social and political actors, such as political parties. In evaluating which policies will be democratically supported and effective to address inequalities, these politicized perceptions are crucial to understand.

The research module Social Change comprises projects in Political Science, Sociology, and Economics (see the website of the URPP Equality of Opportunity)

Overview of the Social Change Module

Politics of Inequality and Social Change

The research project Politics of Inequality and Social Change within the URPP's second module on Social Change is led by Prof. Tarik Abou-Chadi, Prof. Silja Häusermann and Prof. Stefanie Walter at the Department of Political Science. It wants to investigate how objective economic and social inequalities are translated into political preferences and political behavior. In order to do so, it is necessary to study the dynamics of perceived inequalities and opportunities that form the crucial link between structures and behavior.

The mechanisms translating structural inequalities into perceptions of social inequality, their main categories and reference points as well as the actors involved in these developments so far have been understudied in social science research. Social ties, group identities and the behavior of elite actors play a crucial role in forming perceptions of inequalities and linking them to political preferences and behavior.