Meet the Cluster Community: Valentina Consiglio

1. Why are you interested in studying Inequality?

The unequal distribution of social resources and opportunities often leads to an increasing segregation of different groups in society. Let’s think, for example, about labor market inequality – my core research area: the low-wage sector in Germany has grown significantly in recent decades and is now one of the largest in Europe. Despite working full-time, many employees rely on social benefits to supplement their earnings. It can be difficult for high-income earners and politicians to understand the hardships and fears of this group as they are very far away from the reality of their own lives. This can result in inadequate political action, leading to resentment among those affected and thereby weaken social cohesion.

In short, the higher the inequality, the higher the barriers to achieve mutual understanding and unified action. Thinking about and working on how we can reduce inequalities and strengthen social cohesion is a central motivation for me to do research on this topic.

2. What are you working on? 

In my work, I want to investigate how the unequal distribution of opportunities and resources in the labor market comes about, how it affects political behavior, and what policy solutions are effective in reducing these inequalities.

3. How did you end up here?

I had known for a long time that I wanted to do a PhD – the only question was when. After my master's degree, I initially wanted to gain practical experience at the intersection of research and politics which is why I started my career as a project manager at the Bertelsmann Stiftung. Together with inspiring partners from leading economic research institutes, I had the chance to work on income and social mobility dynamics on the labor market for the past years. In the spring of 2021, I started actively looking for PhD opportunities – the position in the Cluster's research group "The Politics of Labor Market Inequality and Occupational Mobility" was the perfect match to research the central questions that move me from a political economy perspective.

4. Recent highlight? 

Hearing the first birds chirping after a long winter, seeing blossoms sprouting from the ground and thus – despite everything that is happening in the world right now – feeling some joy.

5. Dream research project?

Conducting a large-scale experiment to be able to study the social roots of inequalities in the labor market. Inequalities in social capital (in the Bourdieuian sense) play an important role in educational, income, and social mobility opportunities. However, the actual extent of this inequality – including its economic and political consequences – is difficult to measure. A randomized controlled trial intervening in the social fabric for a certain period of time would be a (utopian) silver bullet to further advance this field of research. 

Valentina Consiglio is a Doctoral researcher at the Cluster of Excellence „The Politics of Inequality“ at the University of Konstanz and part of the Research Group The Politics of Labor Market Inequality and Occupational Mobility of Dr. Thomas Kurer. Her research interests include economic and political inequality, different dimensions of socio-economic mobility and labor market and social policy.