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Research Sociology

Sociology research programme: Paris


Research in the VU Department of Sociology is organized in the PARIS -PARticipation In Society- Research Program. PARIS covers a wide spectrum of social participation, including participation in education, labour market, family and social networks, voluntary organisations, and contentious and non-contentious political participation and prosocial behaviour. Our concerns are both with how social participation contributes to society (cohesion, inclusion) and the share people obtain in social distribution (inequality, exclusion).

Rather than adhering to a single theoretical framework, PARIS-researchers liberally employ a variety of theories and methods suited for the research problem they address. Research questions are derived from the social problems faced in the various realms of social participation, as well as from the unsolved puzzles of the sociological discipline. PARIS researchers apply methodological approaches ranging from large-scale quantitative to in-depth qualitative research strategies. The choice of a particular research method is driven by objectives and research questions of the projects as well as the competences of individual researchers.

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PARIS research groups
PARIS research groups bring together PARIS researchers with common research interests and expertise. Group seminars meet regularly and discuss ongoing work of researchers. Exchange between research groups is facilitated in monthly research colloquia in which new grants, publications and research methods are discussed. The five program leaders and the research manager meet monthly to discuss overall research policy issues (e.g. PhD progress, talent, data management). 

SILC (Social Inequality in the Life Course)
Research on in- and exclusion in socio-economic distribution processes from a life course perspective. How is participation in education, employment and income in young and middle adulthood affected by processes of modernization and globalization, and new forms of government regulation?

SoCA (Social Context of Aging)
Research on social functioning of older people in various social domains, in particular social networks (including family ties, informal support and care), loneliness, employment, and voluntary organizations. How do individual characteristics, aging and the societal context affect social functioning in later life? What are the consequences of older adult’s social functioning for other domains such as health and well-being? Differences in individual social functioning are studied in two broader social contexts. First, in the context of socioeconomic position, gender and migration. Second, in the context of cohorts and time period, which reflect the rapid changes in many domains in our society relevant to aging. The methodology used is largely quantitative and the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (LASA) is at the center of their research.

SCC (Social Conflict and Change)

Research on participation in social movements, in particular participation in contentious politics (e.g. demonstrations). How is contentious political participation in society triggered by social change and inequality in late modern societies? 

IDI (Identities, Diversity and Inclusion)

Research on the struggles for participation and inclusion of individuals and groups sharing specific identities. How are feelings of in- and exclusion in local, national and global society affected by the interaction of identities and (normalizing) structure?

CPhS (The Center for Philanthropic Studies)

Research on all aspects of philanthropy, including charitable giving, foundation grants, blood and organ donations, corporate social responsibility, and volunteering. In a nutshell, research at the Center answers the question: "Who gives what, when, and why, and to what effect?"

Our research programmes

  • Social inequality in the life course (SILC)

    SILC research analyzes participation in education, employment, occupation and the income distribution, in relationship to life course events in young and middle adulthood. In our research, we try to understand to relationships between social stratification and the life course against a context of modernization, globalization and new forms of government regulation. The group specializes in the analysis of large scale (often: comparative) datasets with advanced statistical methods is and also active in the collection and harmonization of large-scale survey data.

    SILC is coordinated by Pavlopoulos ( and Liefbroer (

    Group members

    Bakker, prof.dr. Bart  bijzonder hoogleraar 

    Bouwhuis, dr. Stef

    Ganzeboom, prof.dr. Harry  emeritus hoogleraar  

    Garnier Villarreal, dr. Mauricio

    Liefbroer, prof.dr. Aat  bijzonder hoogleraar

    Maas, prof.dr. Ineke  bijzonder hoogleraar 

    Muis, Dr. Jasper 

    Nagel, dr. Ineke

    Pavlopoulos, dr. Dimitris  program leader SILC

    PhD Students 

    Csorba, Irene

    Mattijssen, Lucille

    Tourtouri, Myrto

  • Thesocial context of aging (SOCA)

    The SoCA program focuses on the social functioning of older adults. Social functioning concerns how people are embedded in social networks of kin and non-kin, in employment and in voluntary work and organizations. Differences in social functioning are studied in two broader contexts. First, in the context of socioeconomic position, gender and migration, where the role of changes in health with aging are of specific interest. Second, in the context of cohort and period differences, reflecting the rapid changes in many domains in our society relevant to aging. These changes include, among others, individualization, changing structure of families, increase of use of information and communication technologies in daily life, and changes in the provisions offered by the welfare state.

    The two research questions central in SoCA are: How do individual characteristics, aging and the societal context affect social functioning in later life? What are the consequences of older adult’s social functioning for well-being and health? Answering of these questions is facilitated by analysis of empirical data, often derived from the 29 years running LASA study (doi 10.17026/dans-287-pkwn) and supplemented by a variety of other data-sets. Some studies analyze qualitative data, but most analyze quantitative data. Cross-sectional, longitudinal and cohort-sequential survey designs and experimental designs are applied.

    Three outcomes are frequently studied. First, loneliness is the subjective evaluation of social embeddedness and belonging, which makes it primarily rooted in kin and non-kin personal networks. This line of research is led by Van Tilburg and applies a layered model of explanatory factors including proximal factors (e.g. the quality of the personal network and meeting opportunities in organizations) and distal factors (e.g. social structural characteristics such as income and migration background). Second, the informal support and care people receive refers to the care arrangement around older people. This line of research is led by Broese van Groenou and applies a behavioral model on individual caregiving. The model states that, in response to the care recipient’s need for care, the intention to provide care is based on general attitudes, quality of the relationship, normative beliefs, and perceived barriers. Third, individual resilience is the core theme of the research by Huisman, with a focus on socio-economic inequality in health and well-being. Huisman is scientific director of the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (LASA), and acts as an important bridge to cooperation with researchers from other disciplines such as epidemiology, psychiatry and health sciences. The three lines of research are relevant to well-being of older people in contemporary society, and have major consequences for various aspects of health. In addition to the three professors, SoCA hosts in 2019 a sponsored chair by the National Institute for Social Research (de Boer), three associate professors (Thomese, Suanet, van Ingen), one assistant professor (van der Horst), five contract PhD candidates and four external PhD candidates. 


    SoCA is coordinated by prof. dr. Theo van Tilburg (

    Group members


    Boer, Alice de

    Broese van Groenou, prof.dr. Marjolein

    Huisman, prof.dr. Martijn

    Horst, dr. Mariska van der

    Ingen, dr. Erik van

    Suanet, dr. Bianca

    Tilburg, prof.dr. Theo van  Programme leader SoCA

    PhD Students

    Abbing, Jens

    Blok, Marije, MSc

    Dissels, Rosita, MSc

    Gardeniers, Maura 

    Shen, Ying

  • Social change and conflict (SCC)

    Societies change rapidly these days. ‘The times they are a changing’ to quote Bob Dylan. Social change is almost always controversial. Inevitably, citizens mobilize in support or opposition.

    The Social Change and Conflict Group studies the dynamics of contentious politics. That is to say, it studies the dynamics of political protest, street demonstrations, collective action, political violence and so on. Contentious politics is rare behavior. In response to adverse circumstances most citizens refrain from any action. SCC aims to find answers to the question why. Why is it that in seemingly the same circumstances the one person takes to the barricades, while the other stays on the couch and remains inactive? Contentious politics is actions by people who are aggrieved, who are angry about some state of affairs be it about earthquakes in Groningen, Trump in the US, or windmills in their backyards. Demand, supply, and mobilization is how SCC tries to answer these questions. Demands mean that there are people who are keen to take part in political action. Supply is about social movements or political parties that offer opportunities to engage in politics. Demand is needed but without social movements, or political parties that supply opportunities to engage in politics the issue would not get very far. Finally, mobilization is needed to communicate to citizens the opportunities to act.

    SCC explores the dynamics of demand, supply, and mobilization and the mechanisms that are involved in these processes. How issues politicize, how social relations polarize and people politicize and or radicalize. Intergroup polarization is the sharpening of opposition between groups in society that may result in intergroup tension and increased segregation (along ethnic, religious, class lines). The more intergroup relations polarize, the more there will be a tendency to minimize intra- or ingroup differences, and to maximize inter- or outgroup differences. Protest is not without any costs or risks. Repression—sometimes severe repression― increases the costs of protest. What are citizens to do? Politics can be enacted via political parties and social movements. What makes people take part in parties rather than movements or the other way around? Politicization might be the answers to that question. Politicization is often the beginning of a process that proceeds with polarization and radicalization. SCC seeks to understand how these processes evolve.


    SCC is coordinated by dr. Jacquelien van Stekelenburg (

    Group members


    Prof.dr. P.G. Klandermans

    Naimi, A.

    Prof. dr. J. v Stekelenburg

    PhD students 

    Garyfallou, A. MSc 

    Khalil, F. Msc 

    Petrovic, I. MSc

    Trovato, S. MSc 

    Yu, G. Msc

  • Identities, diversity and inclusion (IDI)

    The major interest of the members of the IDI group is to understand the structurally embedded struggles for participation and inclusion of individuals and groups in different social contexts. We understand identities as constructed and contested and investigate in our research how identities become (re)constructed under different constellations of power. We furthermore understand diversity and identity from an intersectional take, assuming that individuals are always multiply positioned through structural differences in gender, religion, class, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age and so on and that these different ways in which one is positioned interact. Given that many of the members of IDI are concerned with individuals and groups with a background of migration, displacement, or mobility, we approach identity from a transnational perspective, whereby we make an effect to avoid methodological nationalism in our research. Following the lines of critical theories, power and agency are the key notions bringing this group together. In addition to the visible and solid forms of domination or suppression that are at play in this era, we also focus on the normalized structures and discourses of exclusion. These are often taken for granted and therefore difficult to identify, let alone subvert. For example, various participation policies related to emancipation, integration, or belonging, which are assumed to be inclusive, can become sources of exclusion to the very people they profess to include.

    The members of the IDI group research these processes and contradictions by considering the levels of policy, interaction, and experiences within the historically informed (discursive) structures in societies. They question the basic assumptions of these (discursive) structures and investigate the interaction between normalized structures and the positions and actions of individuals and groups. They try to discover how individuals participate in various societal fields and negotiate their positions within local, national, and global contexts. Most of IDI members are qualitative researchers (narrative approach and ethnography), some combine this with quantitative methodology.

    Ghorashi is the Program Leader of IDI and within her chair Diversity and Integration supervises several PhD researchers, including the researchers from her recently funded VICI project: Engaged scholarship and Narratives of change in comparative perspective. Saharso is the Coordinator of the IDI group and next to her position at VU sociology also holds a personal chair (at UvH) Citizenship and Moral Diversity and supervises a PhD researcher funded by the CSC scholarship program and one external PhD researcher together with Saskia Keuzenkamp. Crul’s chair Diversity and Education hosts also several PhD and postdoc researchers including researchers within his ERC Advanced project: Becoming a Minority (BAM). Saskia Keuzenkamp has the special Movisie-chair, Participation and Effectivity and supervises two external PhD researchers. Lorraine Nencel (specialized in gender and sexuality) supervises two PhD researchers. Peer Smets is specialized in urban sociology and supervises four PhD students. Marieke Slootman is specialized in cultural diversity from representative angle.  From 2013, dr. Kathy Davis has joined the group as a research fellow, she is specialized in biographical research.

    Sawitri Saharso (, Coordinator
    Halleh Ghorashi (, Program Leader

    Group members

    Crul, prof.dr. Maurice

    Davis, prof.dr. Kathy    

    Fiorito, Tara, Msc 

    Ghorashi, prof.dr. Halleh, Program Leader 

    Holle, Fabian 

    Keuzenkamp, prof.dr. Saskia, Bijzonder hoogleraar  

    Keskiner, dr. Elif

    Nencel, dr. Lorraine

    Ponzoni, dr. Elena

    Saharso, prof.dr. Sawitri, Coordinator IDI 

    Shojaee, dr. Mansoureh 

    Slootman, Marieke

    Smets, dr. Peer

    Waldring, drs. Ismintha 

    PhD Students
    Abdulazeez, Nazar
    Alphen, Carlijn van
    Greene, Alexandra
    Knipprath, Kim
    Korstenbroek, Timo
    Kovács, Zsuzsa
    Kraus, Lisa-Marie
    Lazäri, Marina
    Louw, Helenard
    Ocadiz Arriaga, Miriam 
    Pozzo, Moos
    Rast, Maria 
    Shan, Fiona
    Woensdregt, Lise

  • The center for philanthropic studies (CPHS)

    Research at the Center for Philanthropic Studies (CPhS) answers the question: “Who gives what, when, and why, and to what effect?” Philanthropy, defined briefly as private action for the public good, includes acts of giving (e.g., volunteering, charitable giving, organ and blood donation) to nonprofit organizations, as well as the work of fundraising charities, voluntary associations, NGOs and endowed foundations for a better world. The Center for Philanthropic Studies is the leading research institute on philanthropy in the Netherlands and Europe.

    The research focus has been on macro-level descriptions and micro-level determinants of giving. In recent years, the Center has broadened its attention to also study the consequences of giving, both at the micro-level and the macro-level. The Center is a strong advocate of open science, and not only provides open access to its research reports, but also to the primary research data it collects.

    The Center’s flagship project is Giving in the Netherlands (GIN), a longitudinal study on the magnitude of philanthropy in the Netherlands. GIN is the standard work of reference for the entire philanthropic sector in the Netherlands, and an important basis for policy on philanthropy by the Ministry of Justice and Security, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

    Other significant research projects include:

    • The ERC-funded DONORS project, led by Eva-Maria Merz, on individual and contextual determinants of blood donations; 
    • The chair ‘Social significance of Charity Lotteries’, held by prof. Pamala Wiepking, on the consequences of long-term unrestricted funding to nonprofit organizations; 
    • Giving in Europe, which aims to standardize different data sources on philanthropy across European countries.

    The Center developed the European Research Network on Philanthropy (ERNOP), a network of about 250 researchers from 25 countries.

    The Center for Philanthropic Studies ( is coordinated by René Bekkers ( 

    See also the websites of CPhS: (Dutch) and (English).

    Prof. dr. René Bekkers
    Drs. Barbara Gouwenberg
    Caroline Graf
    Barry Hoolwerf
    Dr. Ting Li
    Dr. Stephanie Maas
    Dr. Eva-Maria Merz
    Prof. dr. Theo Schuyt
    Claire van Teunenbroek, MSc
    Prof. dr. Pamala Wiepking
    Dr. Arjen de Wit

    PhD Students

    Drs. Petra van Aken

    Caroline Graf

    Olena van Horick

    Diederik van der Plas

    Joris Schroeder

    Joey Van Matre