Institute of Sociology


Current - 09/2021

Research Project: Occupational Recognition in the Context of the Corona Pandemic

by: Axel Babst and Dr. Volker Lang


During the Corona pandemic, the keyword "systemic relevance" was used by the German government to categorize occupational groups - and on this basis to issue exemptions and restrictions - and to initiate social debates on the significance of these occupations. Almost one and a half years after the introduction of the first measures of infection control against the spread of the COVID 19 virus in Germany, the question arises to what extent the distinctions based on the criterion of "systemic relevance" influenced the perceptions and attitudes of various occupational groups differently.
Our research project "Occupational Recognition in the Context of the Corona Pandemic", funded by the German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, provides first insights on this issue regarding the perceived burden, occupational recognition, and compliance with and approval of measures of infection control for the German workforce. Data of two online surveys conducted in February and March 2021 show that the criterion of systemic relevance is indeed strongly influences the extent to which different occupational groups currently feel recognized or not and whether they perceived an improvement or a deterioration in their occupational recognition during the pandemic. In particular, the group of so-called "base workers" stands out - employees in activities that are classified as systemic relevant on the one hand and require no or only a very low level of qualification on the other. People in base work occupations report a higher level of stress, but at the same time an improvement in their professional recognition. However, this improved perceived recognition is not accompanied by a perception of corresponding consideration in policy support measures for individual occupational groups in the wake of the Corona pandemic.
How occupational recognition affects compliance with measures of infection control as well as detailed expositions of other key findings can be found in the German version of the results section of the project's website - enjoy reading:





‘Legitimate yet Unwanted? Tracing the Localised Pathways of Incorporation of EU Mi-grants in Two German Cities’
Researcher: Dr Polina Manolova

Recent academic debates have revolved around the consensus that EU ‘freedom of movement’ has heralded a migratory system of a new kind, in which transient and circular cross-border mobilities prevail over integration and long-term settlement. Political and media discourses have framed the arrival of Bulgarian and Romanian (EU2) migrants in Western Europe, and Germany in particular, within ‘benefit tourism’ and ‘poverty migration’ categories, emphasising the burden that migrants’ claims to socio-economic insertion can pose on national social protection systems and local infrastructures and resources. This political backlash against freedom of movement has entailed a plethora of regulatory developments for limiting welfare and residence access, which has effectively rendered a significant number of EU2 citizens ‘underserving’, not only of their mobility, but also their right to settle. Even though popular accounts of East European migrants’ socio-economic precarity within Western states proliferate, analyses of the contextual factors of their structural incorporation, are insufficient and mostly situated in ‘classic’ integration paradigms and political science perspectives. In-depth empirical studies that take into account EU migrants’ situated life contexts and cross-border practices of navigating incorporation have not been carried out to date. This project fills this gap by investigating the urban pathways of incorporation of Bulgarian migrants in two proximate but differently sized German cities: Frankfurt am Main and Lollar. It aims to trace, from an emic perspective, the ways in which formally assigned integration modes map onto experiential trajectories of settlement in the three interrelated domains of employment, social welfare and legal administration. To reveal the formal and more covert mechanisms through which mobile EU citizens are rendered into ‘migrants’ with limited rights, the project develops an innovative theoretical perspective in two main directions. First, it builds on ‘classic’ scholarship on structural incorporation and combines it with recent advancements of critical border regime and citizenship studies to conceptualise and analytically unpack the reconfiguration of migration governance on both national and local level. Second, it puts ‘integration’ approaches into dialogue with transnationalism scholarship to account for incorporation as a dynamic and spatially differentiated process. Methodologically, the project adopts a comparative urban framework to capture the significance of ‘locality’ both as a low-level rung in a multi-layered migration governance regime and as a context where migrants access (trans)local networks and support infrastructures. The merit of the comparison between cities of very disparate global significance and power lies in grasping how the relational production of locality affects differently the opportunities and barriers within which migrants negotiate their incorporation.
This project is currently under review by the German Research Foundation under the ‘Eigene Stelle’ Module for Temporary Positions of Principal Investigators. Outputs from preliminary and earlier related research can be found in the JEMS and Movements.


“Who Are We and How Many?” Constructing Categories of Persons in International Statistics
(Hannah Bennani & Marion Müller)

Based on the assumption that categories of persons are not only made visible in international statistics but are also (co)produced, reproduced, and objectified by these statistics, the paper investigates the practices of their statistical construction. To this end, we reconstruct the production of numbers using selected examples such as “age”, “gender”, “ethnicity”, and “disability”. Our results rely on document analyses of international organizations’ political decisions, technical instructions, and manuals. With the help of detailed analysis inspired by the sociology of knowledge, the usually invisible steps of this quantification process are made visible. We show, step by step, how personal characteristics are defined, operationalized, and made observable, and, ultimately, how crosses in questionnaires become globally aggregated numbers. Our analysis exposes the tension between attempts to record people’s diversity and the enormous reduction of complexity through numbers. The specific challenges of establishing universally applicable forms of classification also become apparent. The contribution thus combines questions of categorization and quantification research. It provides innovative insights into how categorical differentiations between people are transformed into numbers and presented as social facts.




Research project 'Threat and Diversity in Urban Contexts. Ethnically Heterogeneous and Unequal Neighborhoods in the Global South', Dieterich, M. & Martinez, D.

Our research project 'Threat and Diversity in Urban Contexts. Ethnically Heterogeneous and Unequal Neighborhoods in the Global South' is part of the DFG-funded Collaborative Research Centre 923 Threatened Orders – Societies Under Stress at the University of Tübingen. Headed by Boris Nieswand, and with Damian Martinez and Manuel Dieterich as researchers, the project investigates ethnographically how everyday threat communication affects the relationship between residents in ethnically and socially heterogeneous neighborhoods in Santiago de Chile and Johannesburg respectively. The case selection of the neighborhoods in the two cities was based on the heuristic of urban diversity configurations, developed in the previous phase of the project, which took place in Frankfurt a.M. and Murcia (Spain).
In each of the cities, a configuration of two adjoining neighborhoods is examined, whereby the two areas differ regarding the dimensions 1.) neighborhood morphology, 2.) ethnic composition and 3.) social inequality. In the case of Santiago de Chile, the configuration is formed by the districts Lo Hermida and Peñalolén Alto, and in Johannesburg is formed by Soul City and Mindalore. Lo Hermida was originally an informal settlement emerging from land occupations, just like Soul City. Peñalolén Alto and Mindalore, on the other hand, are middle-class districts with some gated communities. The main questions we want to answer with our ethnographies revolve around the connection between local diversity configuration (perception and acting out of differences), threat communications (what is addressed as a (local) problem) and processes of re-ordering (reactions to the thematized threats). Through our transnational project framework and the resulting opportunities for juxtaposition, we aim to gain deeper insights regarding the following questions:  
1.) What role do differences in the local diversity configuration of neighborhoods play? In Santiago de Chile, for example, the categorization of class is central due to historical developments (Pinochet dictatorship and 'cradle' of neoliberalism) in contrast to 'race' as a main differentiation in Johannesburg with historical roots in the apartheid regime. However, these categorizations are not automatically the situationally relevant ones, which is why we try to work out the categorical boundary drawing processes that accompany each for different threats.
2.) To what extent are differences between threat topoi relevant for re-ordering? Depending on whether the threat communication refers, for example, to the shift in power relations between established and newcomers in the neighborhood, to the threat to life, body and property through crime or natural disasters, or to the inadequate provision of infrastructure such as roads, sewage, water, electricity, etc. by the state, different reactions can be found.  In interaction with specific threat diagnoses and response reactions, different categories of difference become relevant. Therefore, the different examined threats initiate situational shifts in the local diversity configuration. This is where the third question comes in:
3.) What is the effect on re-ordering of different relationships of state penetration or informalization or privatization of regulatory functions? In the neighborhoods, for example, there are attempts at self-help in the form of neighborhood watches against crime, soup kitchens against hunger and poverty or neighborhood committees for discussion and decision-making. On the other hand, there are also criticisms of state neglect in the form of protests, petitions or the formation of interest groups such as parties.


The project “Gender Differences in Family Transitions. Ethnographic Analyses of Becoming a Parent, Separation and Moving Out of the Child” is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Just as its predecessor, it is a collaboration of the Universities of Tübingen (Marion Müller, Marie-Kristin Döbler) and Giessen (Nicole Zillien, Julia Gerstewitz). While the first funding period concentrated on the transition to parenthood, we now turn to families’ dissolution in case of separation or divorce and to the ‘empty nest’, i.e., when the children have moved out. These three transitions are interpreted as liminal phases characterized by the loss of characteristics of the previous ‘state’, and the lack of future/new properties or even uncertainty about which properties these will be at all. With this we follow anthropological initiation and ritual theory as well as sociological life-course research family-biographical transitions which are supposed to show a particular necessity for change. Beyond this, we believe that liminal phases function as crystallization points for (re-)negotiations of those people involved, and as magnifying glass for researchers. Thus, we assume that focussing on them sheds light on the questions why gender differences remain the persistent principle of ordering family life, justifying and legitimizing, motivating and grounding different attributions and practices of female and male parenthood.
Amending so far mainly macro-sociologically oriented life course research, we examine respective processes with a focus on the micro level. We investigate how the family transition events and their consequences are experienced, enacted and perhaps (re-)negotiated on a day to day base by concrete individuals in physical co-presence, discussed in mediated communication via internet or mass media. For doing so, we conduct (online-)ethnographies and hermeneutically analyse a broad set of material: observations of birth preparation courses and family court hearings; narrative interviews with parents who split up or whose children have left home; internet forums and advice books dealing with pregnancy, birth, separation/divorce and the transition in the so-called ‘empty nest’. Our aim is to determine similarities and differences across the material, but above all, to take a comparative look at the various transitions in the life course. We are especially interested in gender-differentiated attributions and practices in relation to: (1) division of care and employment, (2) parent-child relationship and the child’s well-being, (3) patterns of legitimation of parental gender differences, and (4) the role of the body.




Babst Axel, Gehrig Franziska, Prof. Dr. Groß Martin, Hofmann Elias, Dr. Lang Volker & Schuler Gabriel: New Project at the Chair of Macro-Sociology

What measures are necessary to fight the corona virus and which of them are accepted by the population? Politicians face this question during the winter months of the pandemic. The project "Professional Recognition in the Context of the Corona Pandemic", which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, pursues two objectives to approach the second part of this fundamental question. First, it will examine how recognition of one's own professional activity is perceived in different occupational groups - especially in so-called "systemically relevant professions" - and whether the perceived recognition has changed during the pandemic. Secondly, the project will investigate how socially accepted or burdensome the measures are. Do deficits in perceived recognition lead to reduced acceptance of existing measures? Two quantitative online surveys will be conducted to discuss these questions. The sample consists of at least 3,000 respondents per survey. These are employed and also non-employed persons who lost their jobs immediately before the first contact restrictions in March. In addition to the perceived professional recognition and compliance with infection control measures, information on the socio-economic position, personality traits and political attitudes of the respondents is collected.

Interested readers are invited to take a look at the website of the project.


Moser Sebastian J. & Schlechtriemen Tobias (2020): Social figures of the corona pandemic. Ein Aufschlag, in: KWI-Blog, 16.11.2020, DOI:

The corona pandemic and the measures associated with it have fundamentally changed people's everyday lives worldwide. It is not yet possible to predict how long this will continue; we are in an uncertain interim period. In such times, social figures enter the social stage. In a figurative form, they embody the social experiences and problems that characterize the everyday handling of the pandemic and enable us as a society to reach an understanding about it.Patient 0, "hoarders", virologists, governors as father figures or mask deniers - these are the figures that are depicted on the blog of the Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen. They are interesting because of their social aspect that is condensed in the stories of these human figures. With their socio-figurative sketches, cultural scientists of various disciplinary backgrounds open up a space for experimentation, also with regard to writing styles and forms of description.Click for more information.


Martin Groß (Universität Tübingen), Stefan Stuth (Universität Köln) and Johannes Giesecke (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin)

Occupational Closure and Wage Inequality: How Occupational Closure Effects Vary Between Workers

Occupational closure continuously establishes, contests, or reinforces institutional boundaries around occupations. Occupational closure thereby interferes with wage-setting processes in the labor market. Recent research shows a substantial impact of occupational closure on wage determination processes in Germany. However, research on occupational closure is based on the assumption that all incumbents of an occupation benefit in the same way. We challenge this assumption by showing that occupational closure works differently for different workers. Using the 2006 sample of the German Structure of Earnings Survey, we distinguish nine worker profiles (three educational groups crossed with three career stages). For each of these profiles we investigate the effects of five closure sources (credentialism, standardization, licensure, representation by occupational associations, and unionization) on the expected mean wages of occupations, employing a two-step multilevel regression model. Our results show that occupational closure does indeed differ between workers. We can show that closure plays out differently throughout employees’ careers. For example, representation through occupational associations pays off the most as employees’ careers advance. Closure sources are unequally distributed across occupations and benefit employees with tertiary degrees more than employees with vocational qualifications. Credentialism also yields the largest advantages for workers with tertiary degrees regarding wage rents. However, our analyses also point to complex interactions between credentialism and standardization, demanding further research, to investigate the interplay between individual worker characteristics and the various sources of occupational closure.



Weber, Hannes, Schwenzer, Marc & Hillmert, Steffen (2020):
Homophily in the formation and development of learning networks among university students. Network Science, 2020. DOI: 10.1017/nws.2020.10

Students’ personal learning networks can be a valuable resource of success in higher education: they offer opportunities for academic and personal support and provide sources of information related to exams or homework. While friendship networks among students have been extensively studied, much less is known about the formation and evolution of learning ties. We study the determinants of learning networks using a specific panel study among university students in their first and second year of study. All students were enrolled in the same degree course and provided information on acquaintances and learning partners from a complete list of their fellow students. A long-standing question in social network analysis has been whether the tendency of individuals with similar characteristics to form ties is a result of preferences (“choice homophily”) or rather selective opportunities (“induced homophily”). We expect a latent preference for homophilic learning partnerships with regard to attributes such as gender, ability, and social origin. We estimate recently developed temporal exponential random graph models (TERGM) to control for previous network structure and study changes in learning ties among students. The results show that especially for males, same-gender partnerships are preferred over heterogeneous ties, while chances for tie formation decrease with the difference in academic ability among students. Social origin is a significant factor in the cross-sectional exploration but does appear to be less important in the formation of new (strong) partnerships during the course of studies.

Full text:



Waiting: Taking Care of the present

No. 9 of the Revue française d’éthique appliquée, edited by Sebastian J. Moser and Daniel Dreuil

Our present is characterized by acceleration and the compulsion to act immediately. Against these imperatives, this edition of the Revue française d’éthique appliquée invites us to think about waiting, hesitation and pausing as an ethical resource. Waiting, a temporal experience of everyday life, is sometimes characterized by hope and even the expected happiness of the expected event. At the same time, however, there is also uncertainty and anxiety. These two dimensions of heteronomy range from discomfort to extreme fear. People who are waiting for a doctor's diagnosis after an examination, residents of care houses or asylum seekers who are waiting for their status to be legalized are just a few examples of the state of uncertainty that waiting puts us in. Waiting is a moral experience: it braces our practical relationship with the world by hindering our ability to make autonomous decisions. As a result, the question arises of how we can take care of waiting.

Available here in French

*** französische Version ***

En attente: Prendre soin du présent

No. 9 de la Revue française d’éthique appliquée, coordonné par Sebastian J. Moser et Daniel Dreuil 

Face à l’impératif de la vitesse et de l’action immédiate de notre époque, ce numéro propose de réfléchir sur l’attente comme ressource éthique. L’attente, expérience temporelle de la vie quotidienne, se teinte parfois d’espérance et même du bonheur anticipé de l’événement attendu mais peut être chargée d’incertitude et d’appréhension. Ces deux dimensions d’hétéronomie vont de l’inconfort jusqu’à l’extrême angoisse, celle des personnes engagées dans un parcours d’examens en vue d’un diagnostic, celle des demandeurs d'asile dans l'attente d'un refuge, etc. L’attente est bien une expérience morale: elle met entre parenthèses notre rapport pratique au monde en entravant l’activité libre. Dès lors, comment prendre soin de l’attente?

Disponible ici en française


Project: “Making up people” in world society: analyzing the institutionalization of global social categories” founded by the German Research Foundation

Project team: Prof. Dr. Marion Müller, Dr. Hannah Bennani, Annelen Fritz MA, Leandro Raszkewicz MA, Sophia Falter, Mona Haddada

Duration: 1.05.2020-30.04.2023

Our new project starts with the observation that world society is regularly described in terms of "diversity." From the perspective of a sociology of knowledge, we study the construction and institutionalization of global categories of persons like "women," "people with disabilities" or "indigenous peoples" in the context of international politics, but also take into account less successful cases like "poor people."

We consider global categories as significant elements of world society's structures and as a mechanism of globalization: By identifying people as members of the same kind, a global realm of observation evolves. While differences between categories become apparent, multiple distinctions within categories seem less relevant. As soon as the categories institutionalize as legitimate universal distinctions, legal and political expectations evolve around them that may also influence national societies. Based on these assumptions, we study institutionalization processes and factors that favor (or hinder) the establishment of global categories of persons. How have they been established as significant modes of global sense-making, and how do they solidify (or not)? Who are relevant actors involved in these processes, and which mechanisms induce the institutionalization and globalization of these categories? Are there typical conditions for their success or failure?

We will reconstruct and compare the processes of institutionalization and globalization on the basis of seven cases: "sex/gender", "race", "refugees/migrants", "people with disabilities", "indigenous people(s)", "poor people" and "LGBTI people".  To reflect the complexity of the cases, we combine different sources and methods: 1) document analysis of selected materials by relevant national and international organizations, 2) guided interviews with experts and contemporary witnesses; and 3) ethnographic explorations in the context of the United Nations and social movements.

The project is innovative in several ways: While the study of "human differentiation" (Hirschauer) has mainly focused on national or local processes, the project adds a global perspective. At the same time, it systematically uses the insights of the sociology of categorization in the context of world society research. By adopting an interaction theory's perspective in examining the setting up of global categories, the project focuses on micro-level processes mostly ignored by world society research.

see also

Anthology: “Observing and comparing globally. Sociological world society studies”

Authors: Hannah Bennani (ed.), Martin Bühler (ed.), Sophia Cramer (ed.), Andrea Glauser (ed.)

From the collection World Society Studies


Whether it be artist rankings, grain classifications or the recording of forced labor - practices of global observation and comparison are now indispensable in the context of world society. But how did such practices evolve? How are comparisons communicated and with what consequences? The contributions in this volume provide detailed insights into the multifaceted interplay of comparisons and world society.

Link to publication


The just gender pay gap in Germany revisited: The male breadwinner model and regional differences in gender-specific role ascriptions
Prof. Dr. Martin Groß

Despite recent advances, women still earn less than men, and this gap is considerable. Moreover, even after accounting for differences in education, occupation, experience and performance, many people think that this gap is justified, which leads to a so-called just gender pay gap (JGPG). Research thus far has not been able to explain this JGPG. In a paper published in Research on Social Stratification and Mobility, Volker Lang and Martin Groß use a factorial survey experiment conducted with a population-representative sample in Germany (SOEP-Pretest 2008, 1066 persons, 26,650 vignette ratings) to test if the male breadwinner model (MBM) – the belief that fathers should be gainfully employed to provide for the material needs of their family while mothers attend to the unpaid family work – can account for this JGPG. Based on the MBM explanation, they expect that the JGPG is larger if there are children in a family. To account for the multistep rating process of the factorial survey in the SOEP-Pretest 2008, they develop and implement a new, highly flexible factorial survey model: the generalized Craggit model. The results clearly indicate that the MBM is a critical factor driving the JGPG in Germany. While respondents think that childless women and men should be paid equally, they consider it just if men with children earn approximately 8 % more than women with children or childless persons earn. Moreover, the analyses based on the generalized Craggit model demonstrate a lower JGPG and less relevance of the MBM in the eastern federal states than in the western federal states.


From Children to Parents: The Role of Performance Shifts In Private Tutoring Enrollment By Social Origins. The South Korean Case.
Dr. Laia Sanchez Guerrero

Existing research recognises the critical role played by parents in the educational success of their children. Yet, little attention has been paid to how children performance shifts may alter parents’ educational strategies and the investments they make in education. In a new study published in Research on Social Stratification and Mobility, Laia Sánchez Guerrero investigates whether changes in school performance alter the investments that parents make in private tutoring, and whether these performance shifts are weighted unequally by parents of different social origins. Finally, the article also analyses to what extent investment in private education boosts children’s educational outcomes.

The empirical analysis is based on the junior high school sample of the Korean Youth Panel Survey. Based on a sample of 2,209 teenagers, the author applies a Dynamic Random Effects Probit model to disentangle whether achievement shifts affect parents’ educational decisions and how these decisions may change educational outcomes. The results suggest that patterns of achievement have more weight in the decision-making process of disadvantaged parents. If disadvantaged children fail just once, parents are likely to retrieve their investment. There are, per contra, no substantial differences in investment among the privileged due to achievement shifts. The results also suggest that private education investment tends to have a positive effect on children’s achievement, but this positive effect differs by social origins. More precisely, it appears to be more beneficial for privileged students than it is for disadvantaged ones. Perhaps due to differences in the quality of private education received.


Early Education and Care Quality: Does it Matter for Maternal Working Hours?
Previous research indicates that the effects of attending childcare institutions on children’s wellbeing depend on the quality of the interactions and the learning environment in these institutions. To-date, consequences of the childcare quality for mothers’ employment have received much less attention in the literature, which has focused on the availability and cost of childcare. In a new study published in Social Science Research, Pia Schober and Juliane Stahl investigate whether mothers whose children enter childcare centers of higher quality are more likely to increase their working hours over the following years. They suggest that higher-quality care, e.g. in terms of child-teacher-ratio and frequent communication, is likely to foster trust between parents and teachers and promote more individualized care. This may facilitate a faster labor market re-entry of mothers and an extension of working hours.
For the empirical analysis, the link the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) Study with the new  K2iD-SOEP extension study, in which the authors collected quality information from childcare centers across Germany. Based on a sample of 556 mothers of 628 children, the authors applied change score models with entropy balancing to account for differences in a rich set of observable characteristics of families and childcare centers. The findings show that higher levels of quality with respect to child-teacher-ratio and partly also activities promoting child learning and offered services for parents are associated with greater increases in working hours for mothers. Group size and equipment did not seem to play a role. From a policy perspective, these results provide evidence that investments in childcare quality do not only benefit child development but may also facilitate the postnatal labor market participation of mothers.