more nepotism in southern than in northern italy…

…in ACADEMIA! heh.

in all likelihood, anyway:

“Measuring Nepotism through Shared Last Names: The Case of Italian Academia”

“In Italy, nepotism is perceived as a cancer that has metastasized, invading many segments of society, including academia. The figure of the ‘barone’ (baron), the all-powerful senior professor who can, with a stroke of the pen, make or destroy careers, has permeated popular culture and is frequently represented in novels and movies. Nepotistic practices are especially damaging in a situation in which there are very few new positions (e.g. in Italy, for several years, all academic hires were put on hold). Despite legislative efforts aimed at eradicating nepotism, the general perception is that the practice is alive and well. The more blatant cases have gained the attention of the public, but the magnitude of the problem is unknown, as all the evidence is anecdotal….

“Recently, Durante et al. performed the first large-scale survey of co-occurrence of last names among Italian academics, and compared it with detailed geographical data on last name frequency. Their analysis showed that the degree of homonymity in academia is much higher than expected at random, especially in some disciplines and institutions. Moreover, they showed that a high degree of homonymity negatively correlates with several indices of academic performance. Although sharing last names does not necessarily imply family affiliation, it can be used as a proxy for nepotistic relations. If anything, the number of cases is going to be largely underestimated, as in Italy women maintain their maiden names, and children take their father’s last name. Thus, using last names one can detect nepotism associated with father-child and inter-sibling relations, but not mother-child cases and those involving spouses. Considering that in the sporadic documented cases the majority of hires involves spouses, and that women constitute about a third of the professors, one can conclude that such an analysis can detect roughly half of the cases of nepotism within the immediate family, not to mention lovers, domestic partners, pupils and more distant relatives….”


previously: inbreeding in italy and all i want for christmas

see also: chalk and cheese @those who can see.

(note: comments do not require an email. university of catania, sicily.)



  1. Very interesting article, quite an original way to try to measure nepotism.

    I’ve altered Allesina’s map a little, filling in each region with the average proposed nepotism rate (but I weighted each region’s universities for size…some have four professors, some have 4000!). You can see it here at Scribd, or over here on my Italy post.

    Also, here is a decent recent article from the Economist that touches on this question (and corruption in Italy in general), although the diagnosis of the blank-slatist author, bless his heart, is a swing and a miss. (‘Changing Italy’s institutions will change Italy’s people!’)


  2. @m.g. – “You can see it here at Scribd, or over here on my Italy post.”

    nice! i also like the corruption map — i don’t think i looked so closely at that before. there really IS a major north-south (and central) divide in “italy,” isn’t there?!

    @m.g. – “‘Changing Italy’s institutions will change Italy’s people!’”

    heh. yeah. that ain’t gonna do it!

    unless … unless in changing italy’s institutions you also make a major change in the selection pressures on the italian population(s). you’ve got to make enough changes that would also change the biology of the population.

    for instance, changing europe’s major religious institutions from pagan to christian in the early medieval period really changed europe’s people ’cause their mating patterns were changed. also, changing europe’s major economic institutions from some sort of (i dunno) clan/tribal-based pastoralist/farming basis to the feudal/manorialism system also really changed europe’s people because 1) the new mating patterns were reinforced, and 2) other personality traits were, no doubt, selected for (harding working? conformity?).

    so, changing institutions can change people — but not just tweaking them a little bit, which is what i’m sure the economist’s writer was suggesting (dunno … gonna go read it right now!).


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