Institute of Sociology (IfS)

The research profile of the Institute of Sociology is characterised by its focus on fundamental empirical social research. It deals in its main areas of research with questions that address the principles of various subdisciplines of sociology – from industrial, family and migration sociology, comparative sociology, social structure analysis, and transnationalisation research to method development.

Prof. Anne Busch-Heizmann and her team investigate the relationship between organisational structures to promote equal opportunities – such as measures organisations take for gender equality and balance between family and working life – and gender-specific social inequalities. In her DFG project “The ambivalent importance of organisational structures for explaining social inequalities between women and men”, the particular aim is to reveal potential ambivalence in the effects of such structures. Her project “Digitalisation and the distinction between professional and private life”, funded by the Hans Böckler Foundation, meanwhile explores the effects of information technology on flexible working.

In family sociology, Prof. Anja Steinbach is working in her DFG project, “Child Well-Being in Shared Parenting Arrangements after Parental Separation or Divorce”, on families who practise a shared parenting model in which both parents have roughly equal responsibility for their children after parting. The effects of this kind of childcare model on the well-being of the children are central to this research. With the data, which will be available to the scientific community as a public use file when the project ends, it will be possible to get a clearer picture of what the shared model means for child well-being after separation or divorce in Germany. This will be taken as a basis for developing standards with which to help the courts in instructing on the shared model.

In the sociology of work and technology, Prof. Frank Kleemann in the “Industry 4.0 and the disposition of the workforce” project (funded by the Forschungsinstitut für gesellschaftliche Weiterentwicklung, FGW) explores the active role of the workforce in the current digitalisation of industrial production and is developing an analytical concept called “Arbeitspositionen”. In the DFG project “Reward-based crowdfunding as gift exchange. On the interconnection of consumption, commitment and community in crowdfunding”, he is analysing funding for diverse projects that is sourced through internet platforms by collecting small amounts of money from a large number of supporters in return for a non-monetary “reward”. Central to the study are the “communitising” effects of the combination of market exchange and donation from the perspective of gift exchange theory.

Prof. Marcel Erlinghagen researches issues surrounding migration and integration. Continuing a study funded by Stiftung Mercator on the causes, conditions and consequences of emigration from and return-migration to Germany, he is working in cooperation with the Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB) on the DFG-funded “German Emigration and Remigration Panel Study (GERPS)” to explore the consequences of international migration on the life course and generate the first empirical basis for a longitudinal study of international migration. Prof. Erlinghagen and Dr. Christiane Lübke are heading another project, “Social participation of adolescent migrants and their integration in the labour market in the life course” (funded by the former MIWF NRW), which analyses in a longitudinal study the relationship between sports, artistic and other social activities among adolescent immigrants and their integration in the labour market in later life.

Prof. Tao Liu is working within DFG Collaborative Research Centre 1342 at the University of Bremen on the subproject “Developmental dynamics of Chinese social policy: The interplay between national and international influences”, which deals with a central question of Chinese social policy: How have internal and external influences affected and shaped social policy and what are the mechanisms through which this has happened? The study covers the years 1990 to 2020.

In transnationalisation research, Prof. Tao Liu and Prof. Anja Weiß are exploring a fundamental question of sociological research on globalisation. The DFG project “Travelling knowledge: the glocalization of medical professional knowledge and practice” is developing an empirically grounded theory of how knowledge and practice in the medical profession cross national borders. Because the comparisons are embedded in transnational and national contexts, the project makes it possible to understand how professional knowledge remains particularised or locally bound.

Transnationalisation processes are likewise a focus of Prof. Sigrid Quack’s research. In cooperation with the University of Innsbruck, Professor Quack is working on the “Organised creativity under regulatory uncertainty: Challenges of IP rights” project, which is part of DFG Research Unit 2161 “Organized Creativity”. In it, she explores how organisational actors in the information and cultural field perceive the uncertainty that is associated with intellectual property rights, how they approach it in creative processes and organisation, and what the consequences are for creativity.

Several DFG research projects have developed and investigated methods of empirical social research. Prof. Rainer Schnell’s work concentrates on the development of new technical methods for amalgamating administrative databases under data protection laws, on microsimulation models, and on methods for conducting large-scale population surveys. In the field of survey methodology, Prof. Schnell is conducting a DFG project, “Health related bias in web surveys of the general population”, to demonstrate the differences between surveying institutes in internet surveys.

In the DFG project “Longitudinal modeling of the future development of the occupational status of third generation migrants using a micro simulation”, Prof. Petra Stein is modelling the future integration of migrants in the labour market over a 30-year period to gain insights into the development of migration-related inequality. In a project funded by the Swiss Association of Transportation Engineers (SVI), “Influence of non-traffic variables on the choice of modes of transport”, Prof. Stein is cooperating with ETH Zurich to examine the influence of not directly measurable variables (such as lifestyle, habits, emotional factors, social networks and contexts) on the choice of modes of transport and living area.

Prof. Rainer Schnell and Prof. Petra Stein are also part of DFG Research Unit 2559 “Multi-sectoral regional microsimulation model (MikroSim)”, which was launched in 2018, with four of the six subprojects. In the Research Unit, which is taking place in collaboration with the University of Trier and the Federal Statistical Office, the first attempt worldwide is being made to create a microsimulation model for an entire country down to district level and across several different contexts. The project should make small area forecasts, for example of the demand for teachers, possible. The Institute currently works in international cooperation with the Dutch census authority CBS, Curtin University (Perth, Australia), and the Research School of Computer Science at the Australian National University (Canberra).