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Projekte / Projects

Ongoing major projects

Co-director of the University Research Priority Program (URPP ) "Social Networks"

In the URPP (Universitätsforschungsschwerpunkt (UFSP) in German) on social networks we investigate together with the project director, Professor René Algesheimer, from the Department of Business Administration and his team the inter-relations between social networks, values, attitudes and behavior in various areas in life. Here is a sample of questions that we examine:

  1. How do values evolve and how do they develop over time?
  2. Do values influence the choice of friends among school children, or is it the choice of friends that designs the value preferences among children?
  3. What is the relation between human values and attitudes toward handicapped among children in Switzerland and in other countries? And what is the relation between human values and attitudes toward children with immigration background?
  4. Do values influence economic behavior of children, such as saving and consumption?
  5. Is there any relation between human values and school achievemnet?
  6. To what extent do teachers have an influence on the value preferences of children in Swiss schools?

To address these and other research questions, we are collecting data among school children in Switzerland as well as in other countries. In addition, we are using other data sources, particularly survey data.


Completed projects financed by exernal funds

European Social Survey (ESS) Rotating Module (7th Round): Attitudes towards immigration and their antecedents

This proposal is for a repeat of the module on immigration attitudes fielded in the first round of the ESS in 2002/3, which has been extensively used in cross-national research and has made a major contribution to policy debates. A decade on, major political, cultural, economic and demographic developments make this a hugely opportune time for a repeat module. The proposal is to replicate those items that have been most widely used by scholars and that have been shown to have good methodological properties. These include items designed to measure attitudes to levels of immigration, the criteria for accepting migrants, attitudes to integration policy and multiculturalism, together with measures of explanatory concepts such as realistic threat and social distance. Drawing on the state-of-the-art literature, we plan to supplement these items with new items designed to strenghten the measurement of symbolic threat and of contact with migrants and minorities (which recent research suggests can be of considerable explanatory power), together with additional items designed to cover topics of current policy and theoretical debate.

Team: Anthony Heath (University of Oxford, UK), Peter Schmidt (Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen, Germany), Eva Green (University of Lausanne, Switzerland), Alice Ramos (University of Lisbon, Portugal), Eldad Davidov (University of Zurich, Switzerland), Robert Ford (University of Manchester)

Open questions in the refined Schwartz’s theory and measurement of human values

Values play an increasingly important role in the social sciences. In the literature, there is strong agreement that Schwartz’s (1992, 1994) theory is the best description of universal basic human values. Although there is considerable empirical evidence supporting the theory, some problems still exist, such as the lack of scalar invariance of the 21-item Portrait Value Questionnaire (PVQ-21) used in the European Social Survey (Davidov, Schmidt, and Schwartz, 2008). Some of these problems have been solved in the recent refinement of the theory, carried out by Schwartz’s research team during 2010-2011 (Schwartz et al., 2011). However, after finishing this project, we realized that many open questions still exist. We are going to address three of them in the current proposal.
The first question deals with the interpretation of the method factor, introduced into the confirmatory factor analysis of data collected in the theory refinement project. The second one deals with the cross-cultural measurement invariance of the revised version of Portrait Values Questionnaire (PVQ-R). Here, we plan to apply the new strategy of testing measurement invariance, as proposed by Davidov, Datler, Schmidt, and Schwartz (2011), that takes the ordinality of the data into account. To answer the third question, we will search for an explanation for the replacement of universalism and benevolence in the circle of values, which has been revealed by the data analysis performed in the theory refinement project.
To specifically address the three problems, new data will be collected in Switzerland and Poland online via the Internet. For this reason, we will create a separate website. Once the website is initialized, it can easily be extended to include other languages, and ideally, can become a leading center of value research and data collection in other countries.

Duration : 1.7.2012-31.6.2013
Funded by Sciex CRUS

Quantitative methods in the social sciences 2 (QMSS 2) – Cross-national comparisons

Cross-national comparative analysis is increasingly important for understanding particularities, communalities, and change in European societies and for testing theories in the fields of sociology, political science, and (social) psychology. A growing number of datasets (three waves of ESS, several waves of EVS, ISSP, WVS) designed to provide comparability across most European countries open new opportunities for substantive and methodological research – but also raise new challenges. Cross-national surveys face all the methodological problems of national surveys, but these are multiplied by the number of nations that are studied (Almond & Verba, 1970). This is not a problem if surveys are treated and analyzed independently, but produces interesting issues when researchers treat the surveys as comparable and concentrate on comparisons across nations. One methodological advantage of cross-national surveys is that many of the problems that are ignored in single nation surveys must now be faced explicitly (Almond & Verba, 1970). This is especially the case when the focus of comparative research is on attitudes and on social characteristics of individuals. These constructs are related to theoretical concepts (theoretical validity) that are measured by sets of observed indicators. These indicators may be both subjective states, for example, opinions, or social background variables such as level of education, social status, or religious involvement. While the problem of comparability arises in each stage of a study, this group will focus on the analysis of survey data and will cover the following topics:
• the selection of comparable observed indicators for measuring concepts that are equivalent across nations and that cover the intended concepts;
• aspects of data quality control and dealing with measurement error in attitudinal variables in comparative settings;
• building theory-based empirical models;
• approaches to comparative data analysis (conditions for multigroup comparisons and how to conduct them, discovering clusters of countries and groups within countries, hierarchical models, and the introduction of relevant contextual variables).

Keywords: Summer schools and seminars; multiple group comparison; confirmatory factor analysis; structural equation modeling; multilevel analysis; cross-national and longitudinal comparisons
Duration: 2008-2012
Financed by the European Science Foundation (ESF)

Past seminars

  • Bolzano 2009

Past summer schools

  • Vienna 2010

Thematic main areas of research

The relation between basic human values and attitudes toward immigration from cross-country and multilevel perspectives

European societies have been experiencing an increasing rate of immigration in the last decades. At the same time one can observe a substantial rise in anti-foreigner sentiments. Thus, it is crucial to understand how these anti-foreigner sentiments come about. Schwartz (1992) postulated a theory that describes 10 basic types of human values that are distinguished by their motivational goals. It is proposed that the theory may be used to explain attitudes and behavior in general, and attitudes toward immigrants or other minorities in particular. Furthermore, such effects may vary in different national, cultural, legal, and economic contexts. It is our goal to explore both the relations between human values and attitudes toward immigrants and other minorities, and variations in these relations across cultures.

Keywords: Attitudes toward immigration; human values; multiple group comparison; European Social Survey; structural equation modeling; group threat theory

Refining the theory of basic individual values: New concepts and measurements

Building on the central assumption of the theory of basic individual values (Schwartz, 1992), which postulates 10 values arrayed on a circular continuum, we propose a refined theory that discriminates 19 more differentiated values. These values, intended to provide greater heuristic and explanatory power, are ordered on the circular continuum based on their compatible and conflicting motivations. We test the theory with a new instrument in 15 samples of adults and students from 10 countries and with additional datasets. Further work relates to the analysis of a newly developed brief scale to measure human values and to the qualitative analysis of various scales.

Keywords: Basic human values; confirmatory factor analysis; Portrait Value Questionnaire

The development over time and the inter-relations of dimensions of group-focused enmity in Germany

Different types of prejudice are usually treated as separate constructs. We propose that they constitute a syndrome of group-focused enmity (GFE), that is, they are related to each other and share a common core that is strongly predicted by a generalized ideology of inequality. Furthermore, GFE components are presumed to have similar predictors and outcomes. These ideas are tested empirically with German cross-sectional and panel data.

Keywords: Prejudice; group-focused enmity; panel data; multiple group comparison; confirmatory factor analysis Multigroup comparisons and multilevel models in cross-cultural research: Some methodological aspects

Multigroup comparisons and multilevel models in cross-cultural research: Some methodological aspects

Guaranteeing measurement equivalence is necessary before conducting cross-cultural or longitudinal comparisons meaningfully. The most common way to conduct this test is multiple group comparisons using structural equation modeling. However, when tested, equivalence is often absent. As a result, comparisons across groups are potentially problematic and may be biased. We propose utilizing a multilevel structural equation modeling (SEM) approach to provide a framework to explain item bias. Using this approach, variations in individual level and contextual variables may explain noninvariance. These approaches are applied and illustrated using various datasets and theoretical concepts of interest.

Keywords: Configural, metric and scalar invariance; multiple group confirmatory factor analysis/ multiple group structural equation modeling; multilevel confirmatory factor analysis/ multilevel structural equation modeling; European Social Survey

Dimensions of integration of immigrants and their determinants

Integration of immigrants may come about in different forms: social, cultural, structural, and emotional dimensions. The social dimension represents integration into the social sphere of the receiving society through different forms of interethnic social ties. The cultural dimension reflects the adoption of cultural elements from the receiving society. The structural dimension taps the immigrants‘ education level, labor market status, occupation ,and similar determinants of their position in the social structure system of society while the emotional dimension describes their emotional attachment to the receiving society. We discuss interrelations between various forms of integration and their determinants.

Keywords: Integration; immigration; cross-lagged structural equation models; housing and homeownership