Research

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 and diverse 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 and diverse 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)

Publications

Early Maternal Employment and Children’s Vocabulary and Inductive Reasoning Ability: A Dynamic Approach was published in Child Development in 2018 (nominated for the prestigious 2019 Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award for Excellence in Work-Family Research). A blog post can be found here.

Parental education, Television Exposure, and Children’s Early Cognitive, Language and Behavioral Development was published in Social Science Research in 2020 (see Working Paper here).

Direct and indirect effects of grandparents’ education on grandchildren’s cognitive development: The role of parental cognitive ability was published open access in Sociological Science in 2021

Work in progress:

  • Children’s Academic Achievement and Behavior Problems at the Intersection of Gender and Family Environment
    We presented earlier versions of this paper at the ISA Joint Conference for RC06 (Family) and RC41 (Population) in Singapore, 17-19 May 2018 and at the SLLS (Society for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies) Annual Conference in Potsdam, 25-27 September 2019. The paper is currently under review. A preprint can be found here.
  • Bringing Occupations Back In: Maternal Occupation-Specific Skills and Children’s Cognitive Development (with Katherin Barg). The paper is currently under review. A preprint can be found here.
  • Parental education and children’s cognitive development: A prospective approach. This paper was presented at the ISA RC28 Spring Meeting in London (April 2022)

At the ISA World Congress in 2018, Michael Kühhirt and I organised and chaired an 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.

Together with Jianghong Li (WZB Berlin), we organised a session on Social Stratification and Child Development for the Research Committee 28 (Social Stratification) at the ISA Forum of Sociology 2021, February 23-27 (virtual).

Socioeconomic inequalities 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 the British Educational Research Journal and has been shortlisted for the 2017 BERJ Editor’s Choice Award.

My  paper (together with Katherin Barg and Michael Kühhirt) investigated whether social inequalities in attaining the Abitur (equivalent to A-levels) were smaller in East Germany than West Germany before reunification. In addition, we analysed whether Eastern social inequalities converged to the Western level after reunification. This paper was published in Sociological Science.

In 2018, I gained funding from the ESRC Secondary Data Analysis Initiative (together with Edward Sosu) for a project investigating the mediating role of school absenteeism for social inequalities in educational attainment and post-school destinations. The project runs until March 2023. In 2022, I gained follow-up funding from the Nuffield Foundation to investigate the long-term consequences of school absenteeism for education and labour market outcomes (for more information on these projects see below).

Completed projects

From January to September 2021, we evaluated the East Lothian Tutoring Initiative (ELTI) (PI: Dr Edward Sosu; funding by STV appeal). The project undertook a process and impact evaluation of the ELTI on student learning outcomes. More specifically, the evaluation  (1) documented the developmental process of the ELTI, (2) measured the impact of the tutoring programme on students’ attainment and aspirations and (3) examined the extent to which the intervention helps to reduce the attainment gap between students from disadvantaged and more affluent backgrounds.

Another project (2017-2019) with Strathclyde colleagues (PI: Dr  Claire Cassidy) was concerned with nurturing school ethos to improve educational attainment and to help to decrease the poverty-related attainment gap in a secondary school in Glasgow. This project was funded by Glasgow City Council.

Interplay of inter- and intragenerational mobility

Whereas the literature on intergenerational mobility found that the influence of the class of origin on class destinations is weaker among the highly educated than among individuals with lower educational attainment, several studies (including my work with Marita Jacob and Cristina Iannelli) showed that social origin also matters for labour market outcomes among for graduates. However, these studies commonly restrict their analyses 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 modelling, we assess whether initial disparities 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.

Publications

Family of Origin, Field of Study and Graduates’ Career Progression. Does Social Inequality Vary Across Fields? (with Marita Jacob) published in the British Journal of Sociology as open access.

Who benefits from attending prestigious universities? Family background and graduates’ career trajectories published in Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. A preprint can be accessed here.

Funded projects

  • Understanding School Attendance, Education, and Labour Market Outcomes

    This project will investigate the impact of school absenteeism on educational attainment and labour market outcomes, and the factors that can mitigate the negative effects of absence.

    Markus Klein (PI) & Edward Sosu (Co-I)

    Period: 01/05/2022 – 30/04/2024

    Funder: Nuffield Foundation

    For more information on this project please visit: Nuffield Foundation

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

    The project aims to investigate the extent to which differences in school attendance accounts for socioeconomic inequalities in educational attainment and post-school destinations among pupils in Scotland.

    Markus Klein (PI) & Edward Sosu (Co-I)

    Period: 01/09/2018 – 31/03/2023

    Funder: ESRC Secondary Data Analysis Initiative (SDAI), grant reference ES/R004943/1

    For more information on this project please visit: schoolattendance.org