Current Research

Here you will find a selection of the latest research from the field of analytical-empirical sociology and its neighbouring sciences. The contributions below have appeared in a variety of publishing formats.

Article published: 23.02.2024
Urban Green Space Usage & Life Satisfaction During the Pandemic


(c) Pexels/C.J. Mitchell

Whereas research in Germany has focused mainly on how environmental burdens such as noise or air pollution affect health or well-being, little is known about the effects of environmental goods. Our study examines urban green spaces as one such environmental good, and asks how their usage affected life satisfaction during the coronavirus pandemic. Drawing on attention restoration and stress reduction theory as well as on theories of social integration, we further ask how different kinds of activities such as meeting friends or doing sports mediate the effects of green spaces on life satisfaction. Our empirical analysis builds on unique individual panel data for residents of Hannover and Braunschweig taken from interviews before and during the coronavirus pandemic. Using causal difference-in-difference models, our results reveal no robust effect of increased or decreased green space usage on life satisfaction. However, results depend on the …

… operationalization: Analyses point to a negative effect of reduced green space visits only when green space use is assessed retrospectively. Hence, our study highlights the need for further causality-oriented research on the relationship between green space usage and life satisfaction. Moreover, it stresses the value of performing robustness checks by applying alternative operationalizations in causal analyses.

Refisch, Martin, Karin Kurz & Jörg Hartmann (2024): Urban Green Space Usage and Life Satisfaction During the Covid-19 Pandemic. In: Applied Research Quality Life (2024).

The paper can be found here (ungated):

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Article published: 23.09.2023
Criteria of Research Quality in Sociology


(c) Rombo/Pexels

The article develops a catalog of eleven scientific quality criteria for sociological research papers from an analytical-empirical perspective. The criteria catalog includes quality requirements for theory development and empirical social research. A distinction is made between two basic criteria that address the entire research process, nine core criteria that address individual stages of this process, and a series of sub-criteria that serve to specify the core criteria. The criteria are developed along a stylized research process as it is typical in quantitative social research. Nonetheless, an attempt is made to formulate the criteria in a way that makes them applicable to qualitative social research. The paper aims to provide the scientific community with a frame of reference grounded in an analytical-empirical perspective that guides the development of high-quality research and supports the assessment of research performance in a criterion-guided manner.

The paper is stored at SocArXiv (click here).

Article published: 05.01.2022
Accumulated Inequalities


(c) Jeswin Thomas / Unsplash

Enduring and accumulated advantages and disadvantages in work and family lives remain invisible in studies focusing on single outcomes. This paper analyzes parallel work and family lives for U-S. Black and White men and women aged 22–44. Results using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth show that White men enjoy privileged opportunities to combine work and family life and elicit specific gendered and racialized constraints for Black men and women and White women. Black women experience the strongest interdependence between work and family life: events in their work lives constrain and condition their family lives and vice versa. For Black men, stable partnerships and career success mutually support and sustain each other over the life course. In contrast, for Black women, occupational success goes along with the absence of stable partnerships. Precarious and unstable employment is associated with early single parenthood for all groups supporting …

…  instability spillovers between life domains that are most prevalent among Black women, followed by Black men. The authors conclude that economic interventions to equalize opportunities in education, employment, and earnings, particularly early in life, are more promising for reducing intersectional inequalities in work-family life courses than attempting to intervene in family lives.

Anette Fasang & Silke Aisenbrey (2021): Uncovering Social Stratification: Intersectional Inequalities in Work and Family Life Courses by Gender and Race. Social Forces Online First

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Article published:
Environmental Concerns in Germany


(c) Pexels

Exploring worries about protecting the environment in Germany for the timespan 1984–2019, the authors explore expectations and assumptions discussed in historical accounts of the environmental movement in Germany and in studies on environmental attitudes. Based on data from German SOEP, analyses show a period of rising environmental worries in the 1980s, a considerable decline in the 1990s, a relative stability since 2000, and a sizable upswing in 2018. Over time, environmental worries are associated negatively with unemployment rate and economic worries. In the 1980s and early 1990s, younger people were more worried than older people, but, in the meanwhile, this no longer holds. Education and (less so) income yielded significant differences in the 1980s and 1990s, but also these differences have faded away since 2000. Data confirm that environmental worries are shared more broadly in the population and that previously important group differences are …

… increasingly leveling out.

Jörg Hartmann, Peter Preisendörfer (2021): Development and Structure of Environmental
Worries in Germany 1984–2019. Zeitschrift für Soziologie 50(5): 322–337.

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Article published: 22.03.2021
Theories of Middle Range


Image: Wikipedia

Middle range theories consist of delimited sets of assumptions from which specific hypotheses could be logically derived and empirically tested, yet are sufficiently general to apply in a range of domains. Characteristically clear and simple, the ideas in middle range theories involve specified ignorance of what must be learned to build cumulative knowledge of the subject at hand. Strain and anomie, the unanticipated consequences of purposive social action, the self‐fulfilling prophecy, and the Matthew effect are a mere sample of the icons in Merton’s grand oeuvre.

Jennifer Lee (2021): The Legacy of Robert K. Merton: On Theories of the Middle Range. Sociological Forum, Series ‘Legacies of Sociology’s Past’ Online, 1-5  (Essay), ungated.

Image: Wikipedia

Article published: 11.08.2020
Online Markets: Herding, Trust & Reputation

In today’s online markets, reputation systems substitute informal sanctioning mechanisms at work in close-knit groups and enable complete strangers to trade with each other across large geographic distances. The organizational features of online markets support actors in solving three problems that hamper mutually beneficial market exchange: the value, competition, and cooperation problems. However, due to the plethora of trading opportunities available online, actors face a problem of excess, i.e., the difficulty of choosing a trading partner. Imitation of other actors’ choices of trading partners (i.e., herding) can solve the problem of excess but at the
same time lead to the neglect of information about these trading partners’ trustworthiness. Using a large set of online-auction data, this paper investigates whether herding as a strategy for solving the problem …

… of excess undermines the reputation mechanism in solving the cooperation problem. Our analysis shows that although buyers follow others in their decisions of which offers to consider, they do not follow others at any price and refer to sellers’ reputations to establish seller trustworthiness. Results corroborate that reputation systems are viable organizational features that promote mutually beneficial exchanges in anonymous online markets.

Wojtek Przepiorka, Ozan Aksoy (2020): Does herding undermine the trust enhancing effect of reputation? An empirical investigation with online-auction data. Social Forces Online First (ungated).

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Article published: 28.07.2020
Meta-scientific Programme to Analyse & Optimise Replicability

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) established the new Priority Programme “META-REP: A Meta-scientific Programme to Analyse and Optimise Replicability in the Behavioural, Social, and Cognitive Sciences” (SPP 2317). The programme is designed to run for six years. The present call invites proposals for the first three-year funding period (2021–2024; CfP deadline: December 2, 2020.

The behavioural, social, and cognitive sciences are in the midst of an intensive debate about the replicability of their empirical findings. Shaken by the results of many replication projects that have been conducted in recent years, scholars have begun discussing what replicability actually means and when a replication can be regarded as successful vs. failed, whether low replication rates are caused by too many false positive findings in the literature, …

… methodological weaknesses in the replication studies, measurement issues, and/or the underappreciated influence of contextual effects, and what can be done to effectively and sustainably secure a high level of replicability in the behavioural, social, and cognitive sciences.

The Priority Programme aims to contribute significantly to this debate by:

  • describing and defining “replication” (including “successful” vs. “failed” replications) across different scientific disciplines (the “what” question),
  • explaining why replication rates vary across and within different disciplines (the “why” question), and
  • evaluating measures that have been proposed and implemented to increase replication rates (the “how” question).

See DFG Website for more information.

(Photo: Lukas/Pexels).

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Article published: 27.07.2020
Social Status, Cultural Taste & Trust

Social status and common group memberships are important determinants of receiving and reciprocating trust. However, social status and group membership can coincide or diverge–with potentially different effects. This study contributes to the existing literature on the role of status and group membership by testing two separate trust-generating mechanisms against each other. Do individuals tend to place trust in high-status groups (irrespective of their own group membership) or, rather, do they tend to trust others with whom they share a common group membership? Following Bourdieu, musical taste classifies persons of different status. By demonstrating their “legitimate” cultural taste, upper-class members distinguish themselves from the middle and lower classes and signal their social status, thereby creating awe, respect and an air of trustworthiness. Empirically, this study relies in online experiments with incentivized trust games enabling to separate the two …

… trust-generating mechanisms. No evidence is found that persons with “legitimate” tastes are generally trusted more. Instead, ingroup favouritism towards persons with a similar taste is demonstrated. Members of taste-based groups trust each other more than members of different-taste-based groups. Interestingly, this group-based trust is not always justified inasmuch as received trust is not necessarily reciprocated more strongly by own group members. This suggests that ingroup favouritism is, at least in part, driven by false beliefs.

Amelie Aidenberger, Heiko Rauhut, Jörg Rössel (2020): Is participation in high-status culture a signal of trustworthiness? PLOS ONE 15(5) (ungated)

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Article published: 21.07.2020
Egocentric Network Analysis

When collecting egocentric network data, visual representations of networks can function as a cognitive aid for depicting relationships, helping to maintain an overview of the relationships, and keeping the attention of the interviewees. Additionally, network maps can serve as a narration generator in qualitative and in mixed-methods studies. The article provides an overview of existing visually oriented tools that are used to collect egocentric networks and discusses their functions, advantages, and limitations. It further presents an experimental study where four different visual tools are compared with regard to networks elicited, manageability, and the impact of follow-up questions. The results provide evidence that the decision in favor of a specific visual tool (structured vs. unstructured) can affect the size and composition of the elicited networks. …

… Follow-up questions greatly affect the elicited networks and follow-up cues can level out differences among tools. Respondents tend to prefer the concentric circles tool, with some differences in preferences and manageability of tools between participants with low and those with high socioeconomic status. Finally, assets and drawbacks of the four instruments are discussed with regard to data quality and crucial aspects of the data collection process when using visual tools.

Betina Hollstein, Tom Töpfer, Jürgen Pfeffer (2020): Collecting egocentric network data with visual tools: A comparative study. Network Science 8(2): 223–250 (ungated).

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Article published: 24.06.2020
Intergenerational Mobility in Germany

Research on intergenerational social mobility tends to focus on examining the level of overall social fluidity in society. However, from a social justice perspective it can be argued that the type of social fluidity that matters most is upward mobility from the lowest rung of the social ladder. Bastian Betthäuser (Nufflied College, Oxford) analyses the labour market chances of children from parents in unskilled working-class positions, relative to children from skilled working-class and higher social class backgrounds, and how they have changed across four birth cohorts in post-WWII Germany. He finds that individuals from unskilled working-class backgrounds have substantially lower labour market chances than individuals from skilled working-class backgrounds or higher social class backgrounds. Moreover, the gap in labour market chances between …

… individuals from unskilled working-class backgrounds and individuals from more advantaged backgrounds has not narrowed but, if anything, has widened across the four birth cohorts we examine. Results suggest that an important factor underlying this sustained labour market inequality is a persistently high level of educational inequality between these groups.

Bastian Betthäuser (2020): Left behind? Over-time change in the social mobility of children from unskilled working-class backgrounds in Germany. Acta Sociologica 63(2): 133–155. (paper is gated).

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