An informal setting to talk about population issues in an interdisciplinary way

An informal setting to talk about population issues in an interdisciplinary way

The 6th edition of the Alpine Population Conference (Alp-Pop 2016) took place in the village of Villars-sur-Ollon in the Swiss Alps from January 26 to 29, 2016. Organised by the Carlo F. Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics at Bocconi University (Italy) and the Swiss National Centre for Competence in Research LIVES, it brought together above 30 delegates from 12 countries sharing interest in the social sciences and a taste for a certain “art de vivre”.

“This is a special conference for many reasons”, said Prof. Laura Bernardi, NCCR LIVES deputy director, at the opening of the Alp-Pop 2016 Conference on Tuesday January 26. First, population studies presented here stem from many academic fields including demography, economics, political science, sociology and psychology. Second, there is time for formal and informal discussions during and in-between sessions including the long breaks reserved for skiing, walking, trekking or just enjoying the spa facilities of the venue in Villars-sur-Ollon.

The organisers had announced that the conference would “emphasize empirical rigor and innovation over a given topic or geographical area.” That was actually the case, with presentations such as “Political Islam, Marriage and Fertility: Evidence from a Natural Experiment” (Francesco Billari, University of Oxford), “A new tool for old questions: A sequence analysis multistate model of women’s employment trajectories before and after the German reunification” (Matthias Studer, University of Geneva), “Does vocational training give a head start and a lousy end? Life-course employment and earnings of vocational versus general education” (Daniel Oesch, University of Lausanne), to name but a few.

There was also a poster session with six more junior researchers like Florence Rossignon, who showed “Different pathways out of the parental home: A gender perspective”, and Gina Potarca, who presented “The occurrence, Timing, and Stability of Mixed Unions in Switzerland”. Both are doctoral and post-doctoral fellows at the NCCR LIVES.

International and interdisciplinary

Many delegates came from Switzerland, Italy, UK, USA, and different countries from Northern Europe. But there were also participants from more remote regions. Arlette Simo Fotso (University Cheikh Anta Diop) presented a study on the “Cost of child disability for parents’ labour market participation in Cameroon”, and Elsa El Hachem-Kirby (Lebanese University) talked about the “Migrants’ contribution to prosperity and development: Lebanese entrepreneurs in Brazil – from rags to riches”. This session gave rise to a very rich discussion between sociologists and economists, as Luca Piccoli (University of Balearic Island) gave the third talk on “Intrahousehold distribution in migrant-sending families”.

“Ski-note” speakers were Elizabeth Thomson (sociologist, University of Stockholm and University of Wisconsin – Madison), and Daniel Hamermesh (economist, Royal Holloway University of London and University of Texas at Austin). The titles of their lectures were respectively “Cohabitation and Family Complexity in Europe”, and “Should there be an Economics of Time Use? Is there?” Again, a lively discussion on interdisciplinarity ensued after Dan's talk.

That was the second year the NCCR LIVES co-organises an Alp-Pop conference with the Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics. This event was created in 2011 together with the Max Planck Institute, which withdrew two years ago. Some participants have become real afficionados: "The scientific quality is always excellent here”, one said.

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