My research interests are concerned with the formation of social inequalities across the life course. Current research focuses on three themes: 1) child development in dynamic family contexts, 2) social inequality in educational attainment, and 3) the interplay of inter- and intragenerational mobility among graduates. To address these research themes, I commonly apply quantitative methods to large-scale longitudinal data.

Child development in dynamic family contexts

Early childhood conditions are crucial for life course outcomes and play a significant role in the intergenerational social reproduction. These conditions change over the child’s early life course and may thus be of variable consequence for children’s development depending on the timing and duration of exposure. This research investigates the association between dynamic childhood circumstances (e.g. mothers’ employment, TV consumption, housing and residential area) and children’s developmental outcomes . We use recently developed methods from biostatistics and epidemiology to account for complex temporal and causal interdependencies between different contextual factors. This project is a long-term collaboration with Michael Kühhirt (University of Cologne)

The first paper within this framework has been published in Child Development:

Early Maternal Employment and Children’s Vocabulary and Inductive Reasoning Ability: A Dynamic Approach

Work in progress:

At the ISA World Congress, Michael Kühhirt and I organised and chaired a RC28 session on the Social stratification of Child Development. The session aimed to integrate social stratification research with current theoretical models and concepts of human development.

Another paper with Katherin Barg decomposes family background differences in early cognitive and language development into effects of parental class, status, education and occupational skills (work in progress).

Social inequality in educational attainment

This research is concerned with changes in social inequalities in educational attainment over time, the relationship between macro-level education policy and social inequality and the micro-level mechanisms for educational inequality.

My first empirical work on this topic investigated how social disparities in attending Gymnasium and qualifying for higher education in Germany have developed since the 1930s until very recently (together with Steffen Schindler, Reinhard Pollak and Walter Müller).

Within AQMeN, we analysed the association between school curricula, examination results and university entrance requirements and social inequalities in access to higher education comparing the Scottish and Irish education system (together with Cristina Iannelli and Emer Smyth). This paper was published in British Educational Research Journal and has been shortlisted for the 2017 BERJ Editor’s Choice Award.

My newest project (together with Katherin Barg and Michael Kühhirt) investigates whether social inequalities in eligibility for higher education were smaller in East Germany than West Germany prior to reunification and how that changed after reunification (Preprint)

Recently, I gained funding from the ESRC Secondary Data Analysis Initiative for a project investigating the mediating role of school absenteeism for social inequalities in educational attainment and post-school destinations. For more information please see below.

A further project with Strathclyde colleagues is concerned with nurturing school ethos to improve educational attainment and to help decreasing the poverty-related attainment gap in a secondary school in Glasgow. This research is funded by Glasgow City Council. For more information please see below.

Interplay of inter- and intragenerational mobility among graduates

While the literature on intergenerational mobility found that the influence of class of origin on class of destination is weaker among the highly educated than among individuals with limited education, several studies (including my work with Marita Jacob and Cristina Iannelli) showed that social origin matters for labour market outcomes even for graduates. However, these studies are commonly restricted to labour market entry  or two snapshot measures in the life course (e.g. entry and occupational maturity).

In this project we use a holistic approach and model social inequalities in  long-term career trajectories among graduates across the life course. Using birth cohort studies (e.g. BCS70) and growth curve modeling, we assess whether initial inequalities at labour market entry perpetuate over the life course, increase or whether career developments offer the potential to compensate for initial differences. Furthermore, we will look at within-graduate heterogeneity of social inequalities in career progression.

Two papers are currently in development:

Family of Origin, Field of Study and Career Development. Inequality in Graduates’ Occupational Mobility (with Marita Jacob)

Do Selective Institutions Pay Off Equally for Graduates from Diverse Backgrounds? Social Origin, HE Institutions and Long-term Career Trajectories

Current Research Funding

  • Social Inequalities in Educational Attainment: An Investigation into the Mediating Role of School Absenteeism

    Principal Investigator

    Klein, Markus (Principal Investigator), & Sosu, Edward (Co-investigator)

    Period: 2018 – 2020

  • Nurturing School Ethos to Improve Educational Attainment


    Cassidy, Claire (Principal Investigator) Holmes, Joanna (Co-investigator) Klein, Markus (Co-investigator) Sosu, Edward (Co-investigator)

    Period: 01-Aug-2017 – 31-Mar-2019