skip to content

Demography and Social Inequality

The research cluster “Demography and Social Inequality” is aimed at conducting rigorous and relevant research on demographic change and its interrelationship with social inequalities. The latter aspect is of particular importance, because demographic change has been fueled by social change (and vice versa) and the underlying social processes are characterized by a clear social gradient. For example, research has shown that (a) wealth is positively associated with health and longevity, (b) socio-economic status affects both the timing and quantum of fertility, and (c) education is an important factor in determining individuals’ propensity to migrate as well as their chances for a successful integration into the host society.

The causal relationship between demographic behavior and socioeconomic status (social inequalities, respectively), however, is complex and often bi-directional: Wealth is likely to impact individuals’ health, but health is also likely to impact individuals’ capacity to accumulate wealth. High socioeconomic status offers the resources to bear the costs of children, but – at the same time – opportunity costs of childrearing are high for the highest qualified.

Recent years brought about significant improvements in our – theoretical and empirical – understanding of the causal mechanisms underlying demographic outcomes/processes and social inequalities as described above. Another important aspect we still know relatively little about, though, relates to the coping strategies of actors facing the demographic challenges lying just ahead of us. More generally phrased – and following a general model of sociological explanation – we might thus ask:

  • How do actors at different levels of aggregation (macro-, meso-, and micro-level) adapt their behaviors to fundamentally changing (social, economic, demographic) environments, coping with new challenges and opportunities?
  • How might behavioral changes at the micro-level result in structural changes at higher levels of aggregation? And how are such behavioral changes related to social inequalities (both as a determinant and as a consequence)?

These questions relate all three demographic processes – fertility, migration, and mortality – and various dimensions of social inequality – education, income, social participation, etc. – alike. Answering them requires competence in several substantive fields as well as broad methodological expertise and knowledge of a variety of theoretical approaches to human behavior. The research initiative clusters the individual competences of its members, thereby offering the broad expertise necessary to advance our knowledge in the field of “Demography and Social Inequality”.

The research initiative is in the unique position that its members are involved in a number of long-term data collection enterprises (pairfam, CILS4EU, NRW Survey of Oldest-Old) providing the research community with high-quality research infrastructures. This involvement not only allows us to collect ‘tailor-made’ data needed for our own projects, but also poses us in a position as an attractive partner for external collaborations.


While the professors at the ISS form the core of the research initiative, the research cluster includes other associated researchers from the Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences and other Faculties of the University of Cologne.

The impact of guidance counselling on gender segregation: Major choice and persistence in higher education. An experimental study

Erdmann, M., Schneider, J., Pietrzyk, I., Jacob, M. & Helbig, M. (2023). Frontiers in Sociology.

Gesundheitskompetenz von Personen mit ex-sowjetischem und türkischem Migrationshintergrund in Deutschland

Klinger, J., Berens, E.-M., Carol, S. & Schaeffer, D. (2023). Das Gesundheitswesen.

Limited opportunities: Adolescents’ access to social capital in secondary schools in three European countries.

Lenkewitz, Sven (2023). Social Networks, 74, 245-258.

Social Networks and educational decisions: Who has access to social capital and for whom is it beneficial?

Lenkewitz, Sven, Wittek, Mark (2022). Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, 74, 437–472.

Limitations of democratic rights during the Covid-19 pandemic—exploring the citizens’ perception and discussions on dangers to democracy in Germany.

Katsanidou, A., Kneuer, M., Bensmann, F., Dimitrov, D., & Dietze, S. (2023). Zeitschrift für Vergleichende…

Gütekriterien in der Soziologie. Eine analytisch-empirische Perspektive.

G. Otte, T. Sawert, J. Brüderl, S. Kley, C. Kroneberg und I. Rohlfing (2023). Zeitschrift für Soziologie.

Internet usage among the oldest-old: does functional health moderate the relationship between internet usage and autonomy?

Oswald, Veronica & Wagner, Michael (2023). European Journal of Ageing

Spouses' division of labor and marital stability: Applying the multiple-equilibrium theory to cohort trends of divorce in East and West Germany

Schmid, Lisa & Wagner, Michael (2023). Journal of Family Research

Measurement invariance in the social sciences: Historical development, methodological challenges, state of the art, and future perspectives

Leitgöb, H., Seddig, D., Asparouhov, T., Behr, D., Davidov, E., De Roover, K., Jak, S., Meitinger, K., Menold, N.,…

Employees’ healthy eating and physical activity: the role of colleague encouragement and behaviour

van der Put, Anne & Ellwardt, Lea (2022). BMC Public Health.