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The Amsterdam Centre for Inequality Studies (AMCIS) runs the Research Priority Area Institutions and Inequality (INSTINE) at the University of Amsterdam. We study how institutions affect inequalities in political participation and decision-making, life courses, educational and occupational careers, and well-being.

The INSTINE research programme has two premises:

  1. Institutions matter for individual lives and the inequalities produced, and
  2. They originate somewhere and are shaped by social and political agency.

Research on the impact of institutions is increasingly interdisciplinary, with political science, sociology, economics and education as core fields. Successful interdisciplinary projects have been set up based on NWO and European funding (FP6, FP7, two ERC Starting grants). Nevertheless, whereas most of the current INSTINE research focuses on the impact of institutions, we will also focus on how institutions are affected by inequalities.

Research lines

In each of the three research lines of INSTINE described below, both premises are central. INSTINE is directly related to several funding schemes, in particular the European Commission’s Horizon2020 and the human capital agendas in the Dutch “Top-sectoren” through NWO. Two of the five challenges of Horizon2020 are directly related to INSTINE, “Health, Demographic Change, and Wellbeing”, and “Inclusive, Innovative and Secure Societies”.  Importantly, in Horizon2020 both institutional effects (how do institutions affect the life courses of European citizens?) and institutionalization processes (e.g. which policies need to be implemented to promote inclusive and secure societies with healthy, active and well-educated citizens?) are addressed.

Noteworthy is also the League of European Research Universities’ vision on Horizon2020, where longitudinal life course data are propagated to study female labour force participation, family networks, and economic inequalities – issues on which INSTINE researchers are key international players.

It is our ambition to be a core European partner in Horizon2020, and our past and current involvement in large European research networks contributes to the realization of this ambition.  

Thematic Lines

  • 1. Households, Labour markets and Inequality

    This research line, covering (collaborative) research by sociologists and political scientists, examines the complex linkages between family relationships and life-course inequalities related to work careers.

    Issues covered include institutional impacts on female labour force participation, school-to-work transitions, transitions from work into retirement, and social support among family members. Also processes of globalization and internationalization on inequalities through work are studied. Which institutional arrangements work best for smooth and inclusive life course transitions?

    Institutionalizion processes that are studied in a Zwaartepunt framework concern the emergence of informal norms towards work, retirement gender issues, and globalization in different European societies, and processes of formal institutionalization in retirement policies, childcare arrangements, social support, and immigration policies.

    The iterative process of institutionalization and institutional effects is at the core of this research line, which stands in direct relation to contemporary concerns with active ageing, independent and assisted living, and gender equality in inclusive societies.

    • Main projects: NELLS (Netherlands Longitudinal Life Course Study; NWO Middelgroot), Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Survey (CILS4EU, Norface project), EQUALSOC FP6, GINI FP7, ERC Starting Grant Grunow, Worlds of Working Time (PEGGED FP7 spin-off), NWO-VIDI Van de Werfhorst. 
    • Main researchers: Matthijs Kalmijn (Professor of Sociology), Brian Burgoon (Professor of International and Comparative Political Economy), Herman van de Werfhorst (Professor of Sociology), Klarita Gërxhani (Associate Professor of Sociology), Kène Henkens (Professor by Special Appointment, Sociology of Retirement), Thomas A. DiPrete (Visiting Professor, Columbia University), Frank Vandenbroucke (Professor by Special Appointment at the Den Uyl Chair), Wiemer Salverda (Professor Emeritus by Special Appointment of Labour Markets and Inequality).
  • 2. Educational Processes and Inequality

    The main focus of this research line concerns how inequalities are produced, reduced and/or maintained through education, and which educational policies could be implemented to ensure inclusive societies with well-educated populations. It studies micro-, meso- and macro-level processes on how educational systems, schools, and interactions between children, parents and teachers affect the opportunities of children of different social and ethnic origins.

    The theme includes scholars and interdisciplinary research projects from education, sociology and political science. One societal concern is the low enrolment into the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields in education, an issue that is addressed in the human capital agendas of the ‘Top-sectoren’ defined by the Dutch government and funded through NWO, and Horizon2020. We study these patterns, including socialization processes leading to unfavorable norms towards the STEM fields among girls.

    Also civic education is studied, of particular concern to the Europe2020 agenda of combined economic growth and inclusive societies. Comparative research is carried out on how institutional characteristics of educational systems (e.g. early tracking; forms of national standardization, vocational specificity of educational programmes) affect inequalities of educational opportunity, promote the transition from school to work, promote life-long learning to ensure prolonged work careers, and increase participation in higher education. It is studied whether and how educational systems are adapted to the needs of changing societies and economies.

    • Main projects: NWO-PROO Educational systems, NWO-PROO citizenship , Educational outcomes in the social domain (Educational Inspectorate), GINI FP7, EQUALSOC FP6, NWO-VIDI Van de Werfhorst
    • Main researchers: Monique Volman (Professor of Education), Geert ten Dam (Professor of Education), Herman van de Werfhorst (Professor of Sociology), Anne-Bert Dijkstra (Professor by Special Appointment, on the Socialization Function of Education), Femke Geijsel (Professor of Education), Sjoerd Karsten (Professor Emeritus by Special Appointment on Vocational education).
  • 3. Politics, Political economy and Inequality

    The main focus of this research line is to study inequalities in political freedom, democratic participation and political behaviour, and their effect on the legitimacy of the state. Institutionalization processes are studied in the context of European democracy, both regarding informal norms towards Europe and formal processes of democratic representation.

    Conversely, it examines how the process of European integration affects the distribution of freedom within different European societies as well as the democratic participation and political behaviour. INSTINE research provides a systematic and rigorous account of how institutions determine the effect that inequalities in rights, information, and resources have on collective decision-making processes.

    We examine how political parties respond to increased international migration and globalization more generally, and how electorates of different economic and social standing are attracted to these party positionings. With this agenda, INSTINE is a core contributor to the identification of “policy options in areas which support political inclusion”, which stands central in the Horizon2020 framework’s challenge of developing inclusive, innovative and secure societies. 

    • Main projects: GINI FP7, PEGGED FP7, NWO Challenges to Democratic Representation, Veni Eelke Heemskerk, Veni Tom van der Meer, Veni Armen Hakhverdian.
    • Main researchers: Brian Burgoon (Professor of International and Comparative Political Economy), Wouter van der Brug (Professor of Political Science), Michael Merry (Professor of Philosophy of Education), Tom van der Meer (Associate Professor of Political Science).

Data Projects

 AMCIS is involved with the following collaborative data projects:

  • ICCS - International Civic and Citizenship Education Study. An on-going, comparative research program of the Inter­national Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA).
  • NELLS - Netherlands Longitudinal Life course Survey. A panel survey for the sociological research community.
  • NCO - Nationaal Cohortonderzoek Onderwijs (NCO).
  • ODISSEI  - Open Data Infrastructure for Social Sciences and Economics Innovation.
  • OKIN - Ouders en Kinderen in Nederland. A multi-actor survey among adults in the Netherlands, with the assistance of Statistics Netherlands (CBS). 
  • GINI - Integrated Poverty and Inequality Dataset. The GINI Project studies the economic and educational drivers and the social, cultural and political impacts of increasing inequality with novel contributions on the measurement of income, wealth and education inequality.

Academic Workshop

At school you will learn more than English and mathematics only. Schools are of great importance and they form a very significant input into the social and societal development of young people.

How can schools give practical form to this? And what knowledge is available? These are the themes of the continuing Academic Workshop for the Social Quality of Education, which connects schools to academic researchers