Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Microsociology

Current Research Projects

Labour market, income and well-being trajectories before and after the birth of the first child

The aim of this research project is to estimate the parental costs and rewards of childbearing in a life course perspective in three countries: Germany (West and East Germany), Hungary, and the US. Using longitudinal data and methods such as Group Based Trajectory Modeling and Sequence Analysis, we investigate individual labour market and income trajectories before and after the birth of the first child as well as well-being trajectories (subjective and psychological well-being, physical health). Therefore, we are able to assess how the well-being of parents having different labour market and income trajectories change after the birth of their first child.

The project is innovative since it takes into account both the material and nonmaterial dimensions of the costs and benefits of childbearing and it also considers not only the short-term effects of having a child on parents’ lives, but also the long-term ones as well. Moreover, the analysis uses a systematic cross-national comparative approach with countries having different social contexts of parenting strategies after the birth of children (i.e. the uptake of parental leaves by mothers and fathers, and the transition back to work).

While Hungary is characterized by an exceptionally long and extensively used paid parental leave by mostly mothers but a less flexible labour market, in Germany the paid leave is shorter, but the working arrangements are more flexible. There is also a convergence of West and East Germany in this respect. In the US there is no national program for paid parental leave, and the leave largely depends on employers. The analysis will have important implications for fertility research and policy, since it will shed light on the question why so many couples in Germany and Hungary forego a second child. Furthermore, the life course perspective will make it possible to reach important findings about the labour market integration of parents in ageing societies and how it is related to the well-being of parents.

Principal Investigators: Lili Vargha, Antonino Polizzi, Anette Fasang
Funded by: Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung
Start date: 1st February 2021


Household structures and economic risks in East and West Germany during the COVID-19 pandemic: compensation or accumulation? (KOMPAKK) [Link]

Eeconomic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic include the loss of income for many individuals and an increase in the risk of poverty. Household structures can decrease or increase the probability of facing these risks, for example through the number of working adults or of children in the household respectively. Social policy measures can compensate for these risks. This project examines the unequal distribution of economic risks and options to compensate for such risks in East and West Germany during the COVID-19 pandemic, and evaluates the compensating effect of social policy interventions.

For this purpose, in the first step of the project, we will develop a typology of risk-profiles at the household level in Germany before the pandemic. The risk profiles will be based, first, on the household structure (number of earners, number of dependent children) and second, on the categorization of professional characteristics of household members, considering the extent to which they were affected by the lockdown measures at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the second step, we will use the risk-profiles developed in the previous step as a stepping-stone to analyze the accumulation and compensation of risks in households over time. The findings from the first step will be used to evaluate the employment trajectories of members within households over a longer period on the basis of longitudinal data (SOEP).

The third step of the project will consider how social policy measures implemented during the pandemic compensate for different types of risks emerging from employment and household dynamics. We distinguish between measures targeting the individual (e.g. Kurzarbeitergeld - short-time work allowance, Arbeitslosengeld - unemployment benefit) and those targeting households (e.g.  Grundsicherung - basic security benefit, Wohngeld - housing benefit) to consider which benefits are most promising for compensating economic risks. We use a simulation approach to test counterfactual scenarios of risk distributions, accounting for different “packages” of social policy measures.

Principal Investigators: Anette Fasang, Emanuela Struffolino, Hannah Zagel

Funded by: Fördernetzwerk für Interdisziplinäre Sozialpolitikforschung, Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs

Start date: 1st September 2020



Understanding Family Demographic Processes & In-Work Poverty in Europe - How Marriage, Parenthood, and Divorce Affect the Risk of In-work Poverty across the Life Course [Link]

This project analyses the role of family demographic processes (leaving parental home, marriage, divorce, and parenthood) for the probability of being working poor and how it changes over the life course. The research outputs will make at least three innovative contributions to understanding family demographic processes and in-work poverty in Europe. First, the researchers will undertake a systematic review of the family-related risk factors for in-work poverty. Second, they will analyse how the association between family demographic processes and in-work poverty varies across the life course and by gender across western democracies using CNEF data. As an example, they will address the crucial questions on whether entering parenthood and experiencing divorce increase the risk of in-work poverty and whether these associations strengthen or weaken as individuals grow older. Finally, they will study the association between family demographic processes and in-work poverty comparing two countries, Germany and the UK, where welfare measures against poverty differ greatly.

Applicants: Emanuela Struffolino, Johannes Giesecke, Christiaan Monden (Oxford), Zachary van Winkle (Oxford)



Contestations of the Liberal Script (SCRIPTS) - Global Challenges for the Model of Liberal Democracy and Market Economy [Link]

After the end of the Cold War, liberal democracy seemed to have prevailed for good. Today, 25 years later, however, the liberal model of political and economic order faces a profound crisis. The Cluster of Excellence Contestations of the Liberal Script (SCRIPTS) [Link] analyzes the contemporary controversies about the liberal order from a historical, global, and comparative perspective. What are the causes of the current contestations of the liberal script, and what are the consequences for the global challenges of the 21st century? The Cluster connects the academic expertise in the social sciences and area studies in Berlin, and thereby bridges prevailing methodological and institutional divides. In addition to Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, the Centre for East European and International Studies, the German Institute for Economic Research, the German Institute of Global and Area Studies, the Hertie School of Governance, and the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient are participating in the Cluster. Based on research collaborations with universities in all world regions, SCRIPTS addresses the diversity of the contestations and their inter-connections. At the same time, the Cluster maintains close cooperative ties with major political and cultural institutions.

Spokespersons: Tanja Börzel, Michael Zürn

Research Unit Coordinators: Sebastian Conrad, Anette Eva Fasang

Funded by: Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft

Start date: 2019


High hopes and broken promises: Young adult life courses in Senegal [Link]

The research project investigates the demographic, historical and sociological conditions of Senegal that may give rise to contestations of the liberal script, particularly by its young adults. Many post-colonial countries in Africa have followed the liberal script – implementation of democracy, free markets and expanded education – yet have failed to achieve the liberal promises of meritocracy and prosperity. Such failed promises may lead to disillusioned youths that question the liberal script, resulting often in emigration that in turn threatens the borders and stability of the destination liberal democracies.

Principal Investigators: Anette Eva Fasang, Andreas Eckert

Funded by: Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft

Start date: 2019