Dynamics of Inequality in Welfare Societies

Research in this Department focuses on structures and changes of social inequalities in the context of welfare state arrangements on a national level as well as in cross-national comparison.

We examine social inequalities as dynamic configurations, characterized by multi-dimensional affiliations and attributes related to social class, gender, and ethnicity. Social inequalities are transformed in the process of social change and can be directly modified by welfare state policies. In turn, they themselves generate pressure for change, for example through processes of social polarization or social mobility over the life course. Next, the conflictual nature of social inequalities and the need to legitimize them contribute to changes in the inequality structures, despite the widely acclaimed stability in relative social inequalities.

Current challenges concerning the development of social inequalities lie primarily in the polarization of wealth and poverty, the ongoing inequalities in educational opportunities, transformation of gender arrangements and their complex impacts on household- and family-specific constellations, and the nexus between migration and social inequalities. These developments exhibit varying dynamics in the context of comparative welfare societies.

Current research topics at the Department include:

  • Gender inequalities in the labor market and in the family
  • The role of the state as employer
  • Educational inequalities and their reproduction across generations
  • Perpetuation of poverty
  • Inequalities in wealth
  • Transnational migration and the impact on social inequalities
  • Inequalities in old age, in particular with respect to employment


The Department consists of three working groups and two independent junior research teams: