The Department of Sociology has a long-standing tradition of studying social problems at micro-, meso- and macro levels. Although our research is carried out in different subdomains, such as family and well-being, social inequality, urban problems and the environment, and social inequality and poverty in welfare states, the various studies have much in common in their problem-based and policy-relevant orientation. Emphasis is placed on the following research topics:
Family and well-being
In our society, individuals can receive care and support from both informal networks and formal organisations. In recent decades, informal support systems have been affected by drastic societal changes, such as obsolescence, and transformations in family composition. Formal support systems, on the other hand, demonstrate increasing variation: some are steered by the market or by public authorities; some are specifically professional or administrative, or steered by the client; and some are integrated, specialised or fragmented. Research on the performance and flexibility of both macrosystems and microsystems may generate new insights into how social services of care and well-being can be optimised, as well as into how the related policy can be improved.
Inequality, urban problems and the environment
Research into social inequality and its relation to urban and environmental problems, both locally and worldwide, is becoming increasingly important. The environmental and social risks produced by the global system affect societies, groups and individuals in different ways. The combination of a social problem-oriented perspective (focussing on social inequality, poverty and social exclusion), which is typical of urban sociology, with a more interdisciplinary approach (focussing on the unequal impacts of climate change and transitions in the energy system), which is typical of environmental sociology, provides the multifaceted perspective necessary for fully grasping the complexity of urban and environmental problems' social construction.
Welfare states are increasingly faced with social inequality and considerable rates of poverty. Our research aims to understand and explain the effectiveness of social policy (on social security, taxation, education, labour, health, housing and well-being). In particular, we focus on how social policy interacts with social, economic and demographic changes in society (obsolescence, sociodemography, labour and the labour market, Europeanisation and globalisation). This research belongs to the tradition of policy sciences; it is undertaken from an international, comparative perspective and is highly empirical and multidisciplinary in nature.