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Renzo Carriero (Università di Torino)

16 May 2023 @ 17:00 - 18:00


  • Past event


16 May 2023
17:00 - 18:00
Event Category:
Academic Events

Work in Progress Seminar

The diffusion of double surnames and the role of social norms

Abstract. Transmitting the paternal surname to children is a deep-rooted custom that has been in force in most patrilineal societies for centuries. Often, it is also a legal norm. This de facto practice is found in many national legal systems with some significant exceptions such as Spain or Portugal. On a symbolic level, it speaks very eloquently of the gender inequality that persists in a society because it makes maternal identity invisible. Despite this obvious symbolic relevance, the question of children’s surnames has rarely been investigated in the sociological literature. Inspired by a recent ruling by the Italian Constitutional Court on the transmission of surnames of both parents, the project aims to fill this gap in empirical research. This survey experiment investigates the role of social norms in shaping the transmission of the paternal surname and the alternative practice of the double surname (i.e.: paternal and maternal). According to Bicchieri (2005; 2016), a social norm is a rule of collective behavior such that individuals prefer to conform to it on condition that they believe that most people in their reference network conform to it (empirical expectation) and most people in their reference network believe they ought to conform to it (normative expectation). Applied to the case of the paternal surname, it means that parents might refrain from giving a double surname, even when legally possible, because they believe other people give the paternal surname and they believe others (e.g., relatives, friends) would like them to give the paternal surname. In other words, if this practice does not simply reflect an individual conviction but is a social norm, a change in the underlying expectations should affect behavior. We want to test whether changing expectations through the manipulation of a hypothetical scenario affects subjects’ propensity to give a double surname.

Joint with Giulia Dotti Sani, Riccardo Ladini and Francesco Molteni.