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Active projects

APOE-related pathological cognitive development and cognitive reserve accumulation pathways: a detailed lifespan perspective

Directed by : Andreas Ihle

The Apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε4 allele is a major genetic risk factor for pathological cognitive development in old age. Potentially relevant in this regard, the cognitive reserve concept postulates that early and lifelong experiences, including educational and occupational attainment, and leisure activities throughout the lifespan, determine the individual’s capacity to cope with cognitive pathologies.

How did COVID-19 reframe end-of-life planning of older adults in Switzerland? Preferences, Communication, Knowledge, and Behaviors Regarding End of Life and End-of-life Planning before and during the COVID-19 crisis

Directed by : Jürgen Maurer

This project will analyze existing and new (to be collected) data related to end-of-life planning of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), a nationally representative survey of adults aged 50 years and older living in Switzerland.

Vocational training pathways through the prism of gender and sexual orientation

Directed by : Lavinia Gianettoni, Edith Guilley

Sexist and homophobic attitudes are still rife in our society, and educational institutions are not exempt. Recent findings show, for example, that women are regularly the victims of sexist violence and that non-heterosexual students are more likely to drop out of education when they experience homophobic discrimination. 

Turbulent times: Personal Networks and Social Identities of Swiss Young Adults (IdNet)

Directed by Eric Widmer and Christian Staerklé

Many young adults face conflicting demands and expectations regarding their identities as members of social categories whose status in society is debated and contested, while expressing anxiety about the ties that link them with other persons. The present proposal offers an analysis of personal networks and social identities of young adults during the eventful 2020-2023 period in Switzerland.

Unfolding of involuntary career changes: A longitudinal, plural, and idiographic perspective

Directed by Jonas Masdonati

In a volatile labor market, individuals are confronted with diverse types of career transitions. Among these, involuntary career changes are critical moments in the career path. They can be time-consuming and require considerable adjustment, posing challenges not only for the individuals but also for their personal environment and the career professionals supporting them.

PONs - People-Opinion Networks: A study of polarization in word embeddings and social networks in Switzerland and Southern Africa.

Directed by : Davide Morselli & Kevin Durrheim

This multidisciplinary research collaboration will bring insight and methodological development on how opinions get polarized in the media and social media in Switzerland and Southern Africa. We propose a novel method, using Natural Language Processing and grounded in social psychological theory, for studying how social networks develop around opinions and become polarized. Our overall objective is to study polarization in a framework that jointly considers opinion-based and social structure definitions of polarization. 

Open Elite Data Project

Directed by : Felix Bühlmann

Under the direction of Felix Bühlmann, a team of researchers and IT specialists from Obelis and the University of Lausanne is working on a sustainable, data protection-sensitive and open-source management of statistics on Switzerland's elites.

Strengthening Sequence Analysis

Directed by : Matthias Studer

Sequence analysis is one of the key approaches to study processes and trajectories from a life-course perspective. It provides a holistic view of trajectories by creating a typology that can be then used in subsequent analyses or simply to describe these trajectories. Despite its increasing uses in several disciplines, sequence analysis still faces several long-standing issues and limitations. This research project aims to address them to consolidate social science research making use of the methodology

Liberal and radical equality of opportunity (EQUALOPP)

Directed by : Michael Grätz

The project aims at developing novel ways to measure equality of opportunity using survey data from Switzerland, Germany, the UK, the US, and administrative data from Switzerland, Norway, and Sweden.

Poverty in Later Life in Rural and Mountainous Switzerland and United States : A Comparative Case Study

Directed by : Marion Repetti

While poverty is an economic and social status, it is also an experience. This research project, that will take place in two rural and mountainous regions of Switzerland and the U.S., seeks to understand the experience of poorer older people in such contexts. Existing literature shows that there are significant levels of poverty among older people in Switzerland and the U.S. National welfare states, in combination with advantages and disadvantages accumulated over the life courses, and statuses such as gender and ethnicity, shape the types of economic deprivation that older people can face. In addition, support from private and public organizations (here after ‘social organizations’) and the social environment (family, neighbors, and friends) is often critical for older populations--something that the recent pandemic has greatly brought to light. Some authors additionally point to the influence of the geographic environment on the living conditions of older people. However, existing analyses give little attention to the experiences that poorer older people have of poverty, particularly in rural areas. And yet, poorer older people’s experiential knowledge, i.e., knowledge they acquired by experiencing poverty themselves, could contribute to a better understanding of poverty in later life in rural context, and of what could improve poorer older people’s lives. The present research project addresses these gaps by exploring the experience of poverty among older people living in the Swiss alpine canton of Valais and the Appalachian region of Virginia in the U.S.

The negociation of divorce agreements and gender (in)equality in Switzerland

Directed by : Michelle Cottier & Eric Widmer

This project aims to contribute to a better understanding of gender dynamics in divorce by studying the impact of different concepts of gender equality present in the legal context on the negotiation of divorce agreements between different-sex couples with children in Switzerland.

SWISS100 - Investigating vulnerability and resilience in Swiss centenarians

Directed by : Daniela Jopp, Stefano Cavalli, François Richard Herrmann, Armin von Gunten

This Swiss-wide study of centenarians - SWISS100 - examines the risks, strengths and specific needs of today's very elderly population in Switzerland and helps us to prepare for the future. The study includes a sample of Swiss centenarians and their representatives from the three main language regions.

Metabolic and vascular risk as modifiers of the relationship between age-dependent changes in the brain and cognition

Directed by : Paolo Ghisletta

This research is inspired by the profound demographic changes that have become increasingly acute in the past decades. With substantial gains in life expectancy, the World population is rapidly aging, and in the industrialized nations, older adults are progressively becoming the dominant part of the population. In parallel, the Western nations are experiencing a concomitant reduction in the incidence of dementia. Thus, the need for understanding normative aging comes to the fore.

Helpline calls, job finding and interview training in the Covid-19 crisis

Directed by : Raphaël Lalive

The Covid-19 pandemic has inflicted a lot of mental and economic pain on the world. Both the illness itself, and the fear of contracting the illness generate distress, but so do the lockdown and social distancing measures to contain the spread of the virus. As vaccines against the virus are becoming available, the immediate and most important consequences of Covid-19 on health systems could soon be averted, but key challenges remain. This project proposes new evidence on the role of policies vs the illness in shaping mental health, and how information and cognition training support job finding in a labor market scarred by the crisis.

The participatory capability of children in street situations in Brazil and China

Directed by : Daniel Stoecklin

Ce projet de recherche vise à comprendre comment l"'Observation générale sur les enfants en situation de rue" des Nations Unies est mise en pratique dans les centres de soins dédiés à la protection et/ou à la réinsertion des enfants en situation de rue, en se concentrant sur le Brésil et la Thaïlande.

FamyCH: Family Custody Arrangements and Child Well-Being in Switzerland

Directed by : Joëlle Darwiche, Laura Bernardi, Sabrina Burgat & Elli Mosayebi

The overall project focuses on post-separation custody arrangements and their impact on children and will contribute to the identification of risk and resilience factors for child well-being after parental union dissolution in Switzerland. Building on the insights of social demography, psychology, architecture and housing studies, and law, this interdisciplinary project investigates the interdependent effects of four key dimensions on child well- being: socio-structural (social inequalities within and between families), relational (interpersonal relationships between family members), spatial (housing-mobility arrangements), and legal (legal regulations and court decisions).

The politics of equal-opportunity policy in compulsory education in Switzerland

Directed by : Flavia Fossati

This project examines the attitudes of the Swiss population, especially native parents, and teaching staff, towards policy measures to promote equal opportunities for immigrant students. Moreover, this study also examines the reasons for the failure or success of some important reforms to promote equal opportunities for immigrants (e.g., in the cantons of Geneva, Zurich, and Neuchâtel). These reasons for the failure or success of these policies may be related to the preferences of the native population and those of teachers as well as to the strategies, preferences and decisions of political actors in the educational field.

Vulnerability of family ties and the issues involved

Directed by : Laura Bernardi

Parental separation and post-separation family changes are periods of transition for children. To help them adapt to these changes and find a balance within their new family homes (single-parent and/or reconstituted), the professionals working with the child can play an important role in strengthening psycho-social and economic resources and providing a favourable legal framework for the child and his or her family.

FamiLEA : The Remaking of the Family in East Africa

Directed by : Yvan Droz, Valérie Golaz & Clémentine Rossier

Project FamilEA seeks to understand the dynamics of family transformation in East Africa by combining four strategies: 1) building a common interdisciplinary conceptual foundation; 2) combining a range of methods from across the social sciences and the humanities to build a common core dataset; 3) implementing, in two neighbouring countries with distinct family patterns, a comparative study design involving men and women, younger and middle-aged adults, capital cities and countryside, and various socio-economic groups and trajectories; 4) including discipline-specific individual projects that will stand in close dialogue with one another and with the core theory and data sets.In particular, the project focuses on Kenya and Uganda, neighbouring countries where demographic changes show a mixed picture of similarities and differences.

AGE-INT (Geneva work packages)

Directed by : Dimitri Konstantas, Katarzyna Wac & Matthias Kliegel

AGE-INT is the largest national research project to address the challenges and opportunities of demographic change in a practical manner with a trans- and interdisciplinary project team in the three largest language regions of Switzerland. The objective of the project is to identify knowledge and examples of best practices in selected priority areas, both nationally and internationally, and to make them visible and accessible for a broad public and decision makers.

The multiple paths of lone parenthood

Directed by : Laura Bernardi

Lone parenthood is an increasingly important reality in Switzerland. The Swiss Federal Statistical Office states that one in six households with children consists of a parent who raises their children alone, at least for most of the time. Eight in nine of these families are composed of mothers, although the diversity of their backgrounds makes lone parents an increasingly heterogeneous group.​​​​​​​

Transnational Ageing among Older Migrants and Natives : A Strategy to Overcome Vulnerability

Directed by : Oana Ruxandra Ciobanu

This project will develop a better understanding of transnational practices to overcome vulnerability in old age by doing an innovative comparison between older international migrants, internal migrants and natives. The aims are to provide a comprehensive overview of the processes through which some overcome vulnerabilities and others do not by studying the forms of transnationalism developed to face age-related hardships. .

European welfare states and the challenge of platform work

Directed by : Giuliano Bonoli & Juliana Chueri

Digital labor platforms are transforming work by enabling widespread use of piecework and on-demand labor (also known as gig-work). Estimates show that 11% of the European workforce is already engaged in platform work (Brancati et al., 2020), and that the sector is seeing a 10% annual growth (Stephany et al., 2021). This has raised concerns about consequences for job quality and workers’ well-being. But while platform work has become subject to significant research interest, there has been no systematic study on how welfare institutions shape the quantity and quality of platform work. This project fills this gap through a comparative study across European countries.


Directed by : Flavia Fossati & Stephanie Steinmetz

This project will investigate together with highly renowned research teams from nine universities and research centres across Europe, why and to what extent ethnic, racial, and religious minorities are exposed to discriminatory behaviour and prejudicial attitudes in multiple life domains since birth. They will study how this continuous exposure accumulates over the life course and perpetuates minorities’ subordinate position over generations. For societies that strive to be inclusive and guarantee equal opportunities for all their members, this structural and cumulative pattern of disadvantage is a major concern. Among others the main contribution of EQUALSTRENGTH is to investigate cumulative and structural forms of discrimination, outgroup prejudice, and hate crimes, among others from a cross-setting and intersectional perspective. 

Young adults' social networks in Switzerland : Which social capital for their education and professional integration?

Directed by : Eric Widmer, Eva Nada, Marlène Sapin, Gil Viry, Ivan de Carlo & Myriam Girardin 

Educational and occupational choices are not made by individuals in isolation but, on the contrary, in interaction with significant members of their personal networks, particularly friends and family. However, the importance of the social capital generated by these networks for educational pathways and entry into working life remains largely unexplored in Switzerland. The proposed research aims to identify the links between the professional and educational situation of young adults in Switzerland, their personal networks and the social capital that these networks generate.

Effects of measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic on the social conditions and health of vulnerable populations

Directed by : Andrea Rea, Racapé Judith, Raynault Marie-France, Yves-Laurent Jackson & Claudine Burton-Jeangros

This G3 project aims to highlight research conducted on the effects of social and health inequalities on the transmission of COVID-19 in order to prepare an in-depth and interdisciplinary comparative study of the effects of these measures on vulnerable populations in Montreal, Geneva, and Brussels.

Observatoire des familles genevoises

Directed by : Eric Widmer

L’Institut de recherches sociologiques (IRS) de la Faculté des sciences de la société héberge à partir du 1er octobre 2015 l’Observatoire des familles. Ce dernier a pour but de fournir des informations scientifiques précises sur l'état des familles et de leurs difficultés à Genève. La volonté à la base du projet est de promouvoir la politique familiale à Genève en rassemblant, partageant, collectant et analysant les informations sur les familles. L'Observatoire des familles est l'organe en charge de la recherche de l'association Avenir Familles créée par Sylvie Reverdin-Raffestin, ex-directrice de Pro Juventute Genève, Danielle Jaques, ex-codirectrice de l'Office protestant de consultations conjugales et familiales, et Eric D. Widmer, professeur à l’IRS. L'Observatoire des familles entend se profiler comme un centre de soutien et de compétences sur les familles genevoises et développer une expertise en la matière pour devenir un interlocuteur indispensable aux autorités cantonales dans l’élaboration des politiques publiques familiales de demain. Les activités de recherche sont coordonnées au niveau de la Faculté des Sciences de la Société par le professeur Eric D. Widmer (directeur de l'Observatoire) et la professeure Clémentine Rossier (membre du Conseil scientifique). Ces recherches s’inscrivent dans le cadre du Pôle de recherche national LIVES, qui questionne la vulnérabilité dans les parcours de vie, ainsi que dans des collaborations interfacultaires (notamment avec la Faculté de droit) et sont soutenues par le Rectorat de l’Université de Genève.

MYF - The Mystery of the Yellow France

Directed by : Olivier Fillieule

Does participation in a broad social movement have any chance of lastingly transforming the relationship to politics and the modes of participation of groups in retreat? And if so, does this necessarily translate into an attraction towards so-called populist parties and the model of illiberal democracies?

Coupled inequalities. Trends and welfare state differences in the role of partner’s socio-economic resources for employment careers

Directed by : Leen Vandecasteele

Understanding the way in which people’s labour market outcomes are influenced by other household members has become indispensable and very timely against the background of current demographic and social developments like the rise of female employment and the increasing trend of assortative mating. Previous research on the question how the partner’s socio-economic position affects employment has provided mixed results: some studies have indicated that women married to a higher status partner are less likely to be employed, while others have found that people’s occupational attainment and wages benefit from having a high status partner (e.g. Verbakel & de Graaf, 2008; Shafer, 2011).The contribution of this project is to better explain the reasons for heterogeneity in partner effects on labour market outcomes by examining differences across the life course, across welfare states and over generations.

Unequal shifts in regions’ job structure and the rise of cultural grievances

Directed by : Daniel Oesch

Over the last decade, there have been growing concerns that European countries are becoming polarized between prosperous metropolitan areas and declining industrial and rural regions. While major cities successfully transitioned to the service economy dominated by high-skilled jobs, employment opportunities decreased in many smaller towns and peripheral regions. This geographical divide also emerges in the rise of the radical right, Trump’s election, the Brexit vote or the Gilets Jaunes movement - and has been interpreted as “the revenge of the places that don’t matter” (Rodríguez-Pose 2018).In this context, our project raises two questions. The first question asks how the occupational structure changed between 1980 and 2020 across regions in Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland. While there is much research on job polarization at the national level, there is little evidence at the regional level - and the few existing studies point to growing regional gaps within countries. Our project aims to provide systematic evidence on whether regions have drifted apart over the last 40 years in terms of job opportunities - and thus the life chances - provided to their residents. The second question asks how unequal shifts in regions’ job structure affect political attitudes. Our focus is on attitudes towards globalization and thus on one of the defining cleavages of our time, which is expressed in conflictual opinions over migration, multiculturalism and supranational integration. Our goal is to see whether citizens living in declining regions are more likely to develop cultural grievances on these issues. We thus test the claim that unequal economic trajectories across regions are a prime driver of the cultural backlash associated with the radical right.Our project addresses these two questions by using large-scale individual-level datasets that cover 40 years and allow us to distinguish long-term shifts at the geographical level of districts, counties, departments and cantons. In parallel, we use long-running panel datasets that allow us to account for sorting - if people move to regions based on job opportunities and cultural attitudes. The ambition is to combine insights from sociology, political science, geography and economics to enhance our knowledge of how job shifts at the regional level contributed to the widening cultural cleavage in Europe. 

The Effects of Economic Inequality on Subjective Well-Being

Directed by : Nicolas Sommet

This project uses cross-sectional, longitudinal, and experimental data to investigate the effects of residing in places with high income inequality on various outcomes such as health, well-being, trust, competitiveness.