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WiSo-Economist Pia Pinger receives ERC Starting Grant

Funding of 1.5 million euros over five years

Prof. Dr Pia Pinger

Professor Dr Pia Pinger, Professor at the Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences of the University of Cologne, receives the ERC Starting Grant of the European Research Council for her project "OPPORTUNITY - Inequalities in decision-making at critical junctions in life: The role of ability signals for sorting and selection ". Pinger receives funding of collectively 1.5 million euros over a period of five years to research the emergence and consolidation of socio-economic inequalities in key educational and career decisions.

The choice of a school, a profession or a course of study decisively determines future labour market success. At the same time, people from different socio-economic groups often make systematically different educational and labour market decisions, even when they have the same aptitude. A better understanding of socio-economic differences in educational and career decisions is therefore a prerequisite for effectively addressing inequality of opportunity.

The aim of the OPPORTUNITY project is to understand why the socio-economic affiliation of parents has such a major influence on the educational and labour market decisions of young people and what role grades, recommendations and other so-called "ability signals" play in this. The project will, for example, provide answers to the questions of whether children from different parental homes systematically receive different assessments (e.g. in the transition from primary to secondary school) or interpret the same assessments differently. In addition, Pinger will investigate how assessments could be used more purposefully in application processes to counter stereotypical assessments by selection committees or personnel departments. Further research questions of the project deal with the effects of grade inflation and grade distributions, for example, in the choice of studies or in the application process.

"The ERC Starting Grant allows me to look at the emergence and progression of inequality in the early life course from a new angle to better understand the low social mobility we observe in many countries," says Pinger. "The unequal distribution of starting opportunities in life is one of the most pressing societal challenges of our time. Innovative research in this area is needed to counter inequality, polarisation, and dwindling social cohesion."

Pia Pinger has been Professor of Applied Microeconomics and Behavioural Economics at the Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences of the University of Cologne since 2019. She is also Principal Investigator in the Cluster of Excellence "ECONtribute: Markets & Public Policy" and in the Collaborative Research Centre "Economic Perspectives on Societal Challenges".