Research Streams

The Department of Sociology maintains as a long-term strategy the combination of rigorous research methods and analytical theory. Permeability with other disciplines is also an advantage of the environment which the Department wants to emphasize. Oxford sociologists pioneered both the collection and analysis of survey data in Britain and analytical sociological theory. Theory-based survey research, also extended to a comparative setting, is a central approach for the Department, but theory-based ethnographic and archival/historical research have also a central role. We have several notable Research Centres.

Comparative sociology

The department’s research on world regions, and the comparative method, is particularly strong in East Asia (China and Japan), Europe (Ireland, Italy, Russia, UK), Latin America (Brazil, Colombia, and the Southern Cone countries, and North America (Mexico and the US). Thematic focus of comparative analysis includes, but is not limited to education, family, organized crime, civil and political violence and human rights, religion, social movements, and transitional justice (Dr Hamill, Dr Hertog, Prof Payne, Prof Varese). 


Anthony Heath, Man Yee Kan, Leigh Payne

Crime, violence and governance

The Research Cluster on Crime, Governance and and Violence is an interdisciplinary program that fosters pioneering and rigorous theoretical and empirical research. It promotes research on questions related to non-state forms of governance; the analytical similarities (and differences) between organized crime, insurgency and state formations; the rise, the activities, the organizational structure, and demise of mafias; the causes and consequences of the breakdown, emergence, and consolidation of non-state forms of order; the dynamics of violence. Staff members and doctoral students associated with the Cluster has published books and papers on mafia emergence and transplantation, the definition of organized crime, informal punishment in Northern Ireland, piracy in Somalia, corporate corruption; globalization and crime. The program encourages research, at both the micro and macro levels, that is question-driven, methodologically eclectic, and takes context seriously.


Heather Hamill, Leigh Payne, Federico Varese


The study of population change and its consequences is the scope of the demography stream. Research in the department joins the macro approach of traditional demography with the multilevel, actor-oriented life course approach. The macro approach of traditional demography is epitomised by the decomposition of population dynamics into fertility, mortality and migration trends and by the measurement of such dynamics and trends. The multilevel, actor-oriented life course approach sees individual trajectories and key life course events (including births, deaths and migrations) as embedded in a multilevel factorial model which emphasises the role of the historical and geographical context; the role of kinship and network ties; and the role of human development, therefore generalising the traditional demographic emphasis on period, cohort and age. 


John Ermisch, Jasmine Fledderjohann, Anthony Heath, Colin Mills, Christiaan Monden, Maria Sironi

Gender, family and households

Research in this stream focuses on the empirical analysis of changing gender inequalities within families, and theoretical accounts of change in those domestic gender relations. Researchers within this stream make significant national and international contributions to research on changing domestic gender relations, in areas such as cross-national trends in the domestic division of labour (showing the overall long-term trend towards convergence in the time that women and men spend in domestic work, and how this overall trend varies cross-nationally); comparative trends in child care by educational attainment (showing how the contribution of fathers to child care in the home is increasing, particularly among fathers with high levels of educational attainment); lifestyle and consumption issues related to gender inequality, particularly in relation to participation in leisure (showing how women in lower socio-economic positions are particularly disadvantaged in respect of leisure activities); and the implications of the gendered domestic division of labour for reproducing gender inequalities in the labour market.


Jasmine Fledderjohann, Jonathan Gershuny, Ekaterina Hertog, Man Yee Kan, Colin Mills, Christiaan Monden, Maria Sironi

Health and wellbeing

Research in this strand investigates how political and economic structures and the social context are related to the health and well-being of individuals. How does the social world influence a person’s health and how does someone’s health affect the social world and one’s position in it? This strand comprises studies at the macro-level comparing societies or regions as well as (longitudinal) studies at the individual level. Health and well-being are conceived in a broad way, including for instance, subjective well-being and happiness, depressive symptoms, suicide, mortality, various specific conditions and self-reported health.  


Jasmine Fledderjohann, Christiaan Monden, Aaron Reeves, Maria Sironi

Political sociology and social movements

This strand investigates how political institutions, social context, and individual characteristics shape political attitudes and actions. Political actions range from voting to self-immolation. Some of this research builds on Oxford's long tradition of conducting representative surveys of the population. In other cases, novel methods are deployed to trace events unfolding through time, and to detect cross-national differences in systems of institutions. Researchers in this strand collaborate with colleagues in the Department of Politics and International Relations.


Michael Biggs, Stephen Fisher, Anthony Heath, Leigh Payne

Research methods

Social research methodology in the department is focused on a diverse set of mostly quantitative approaches, such as agent-based modeling, comparative survey methodology, experimental methods, forecasting, life course analysis, multilevel modeling, social network analysis, textual data analysis (currently Prof Billari, Prof Ermisch, Dr Fisher, Prof Gershuny, Dr Kan, Prof Sullivan, Prof Varese). Researchers contribution to mixed -- quantitative and qualitative – methods and innovative qualitative methods in the areas of dramaturgical, discursive and content analysis, and case study analysis are also a feature in the department ( Dr Hamill, Dr Hertog, Dr Nefes, Prof Payne, Prof Varese). The CTUR (Centre for Time Use Research) collects and analyzses cross-time, cross-country data on how people spend their time, researching the dimension of time in social life. The CESS (Centre for Experimental Social Sciences at Nuffield College provides infrastructure for designing and conducting social experiments. 


John Ermisch, Stephen Fisher, Jonathan Gershuny, Man Yee Kan, Federico Varese

Social inequality, mobility, education and labour markets

Oxford is a world-leading centre for social inequality research. Members of this research strand have published important work on the class structure and social mobility in the UK as well in other countries. The Oxford social class schema, pioneered by John Goldthorpe, is the basis of the National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NS-SEC). In addition, researchers in this strand have studied ethnic disadvantages in schools and the labour market, and the changing gender gap in education, employment and within the household. Furthermore, there is ongoing research on income distribution and income mobility, skills, workplace conditions and the quality of work, the social consequences of unemployment, and the consequences of social class and social inequality on political choice, on cultural tastes and consumption, etc.


Nan Dirk De Graaf, Duncan Gallie, Jan O. Jonsson, Takehiko Kariya, Colin Mills, Christiaan Monden, Maria Sironi