A2 Dimensions of Societal Integration: Social Stratification and Social Inequalities

Research Area A2—with a more multidisciplinary scope—focuses on the main processes in social stratification and their implications for social inequality across European societies. Pursuing both substantial and methodological aims, projects in Area A2 seek to uncover how life courses and social inequalities are affected by changing educational systems, labour markets, and other societal conditions.

As in the past, the study of more or less differentiated education systems and more or less regulated labour markets as well as their role in structuring life chances is at the heart of the research agenda. Taken together, education systems and labour markets shape how social positions and life chances are distributed within a society and mediate the degree to which specific social groups are being exposed to life course risks. They thus inherently affect the nature and dynamics of social inequality in Europe. Alongside educational qualifications, the social embeddedness of individuals and particularly the role of personal networks for labour market success are at the heart of stratification research. Employment opportunities are further affected by the individual’s health. Yet, health risks and well-being are just as much dependent upon labour markets and social inequalities. Although social stratification research focuses mainly on objective life-course chances and risks, a look at the subjective dimensions of inequality and perceptions of unfairness allows for drawing a more comprehensive picture of the studied phenomena.

Most research projects in Area A2 pursue a micro-analytical strategy, building on individual-level data in order to identify causal mechanisms at the individual level. Using national and cross-national panel data sets, most projects explicitly adopt a longitudinal perspective to uncover underlying social processes. At the same time, the research projects establish systematic micro–macro linkages by relating developments at the individual level to their institutional determinants at the national level. Other projects adopt a cross-national comparative approach that allows for studying the differential effects of institutional arrangements on life course and labour market transitions.