Christof Wolf


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Christof Wolf

Changes in partnership lifestyles, the expansion in education and particularly the accompanying higher qualification of women, the globalizing of and increased flexibility in the labor market as well as processes of migration and integration are all among the central factors of social change in modern societies.

In the theoretical discussion, with respect to these developments as well as considering the increase in action options and the oft utilized keywords individualization and pluralization, it is often assumed that the classical dimensions of social inequality (education, occupation and income) have lost some of their relevance however, empirical proof of this is only somewhat available. The comprehensive samples of official statistics and the German General Social Survey (ALLBUS), since 1980, have been used to answer the related questions.

Family and household

Against the background of ever declining numbers of marriages, rising divorce rates and rising numbers of civil partnerships there is intense discussion about the changes in partnership lifestyles often revolving around the terms individualization and pluralization. What remains open is whether these developments in the form of a displacing of structures from marriages to civil cohabitations balance out or if beyond that there is an increase in “partnerlessness,” i.e. singledom. Similarly, the last decades have often been described as a phase of dissolution of traditional class-specific structures and increased individualized (life-)relationships. The consideration of such theses brings together demographic-oriented family and household research with the description and explanation of developments in the area of social inequality.

Social inequality

The main research questions in this area center on the state and development of socially unequal participation in education. Since the 1960s – and yet again since the Pisa studies – there has been great debate in the discussion of education policy, in particular regarding the selection function of the educational system. Research carried out thus far has shown how this process has been implemented until the end of the 1980s. This work should be built upon, brought up to date with new data and supplemented with analyses on the education success of children from various migrant groups.

Migration and integration

When, as a consequence of Germany’s “Wirschaftswunder”, or economic miracle, in the 1960s, the concomitant need for labor brought foreign “guest” workers to Germany no one counted on a long-term residence by these migrant laborers. The emergence of a second and third migrant generation also brings with it the multiplication of questions of integration, In this regard the labor market situation is only part of the story, added to that is another side, the issue of inter-ethnic marriages which, as classic indicators of societal integration, make for interesting research questions.

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