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Key Research initiative


examining the interplay between demographic change and social inequalities in contemporary societies

Table of Content


The Key Research Initiative Demography and Social Inequality deals with one of the main challenges for contemporary societies. Understanding the mechanisms underlying sustained below replacement fertility, high levels of immigration, and steady increases in life expectancy is crucial for several reasons: to allow realistic projections of future demographic developments, to identify the implications of demographic change for welfare states and societies (specifically with regard to social inequalities and social cohesion), and to advise policy makers on how to transform demographic challenges into demographic opportunities.

Our research program thus rests on three interrelated pillars, namely the demographic core processes:

  1. Family & Fertility
  2. Migration & Integration
  3. Ageing & Mortality




We closely collaborate with internal and external institutions. At the University of Cologne, ceres, the Cologne Center for Ethics, Rights, Economics, and Social Sciences of Health, is our most important partner, hosting, for example, the doctoral program GROW. Nationally, we cooperate with non-university institutions such as the Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB) and GESIS – Leibniz Institute for Social Sciences. Internationally, we are proud to run a joint Double Master’s Programme with the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.


In addition to teaching social demography courses in the regular bachelor and master programmes offered by the WiSo Faculty (such as ‘Sociology and Social Research’ or ‘Health Economics’), the members of the Key Research Initiative are also involved in two more specifically targeted programmes:

  • Double Master's Programme in Demography and Social Inequality: With this opportunity students  benefit from the expertise of two top-ranking universities. They spend one year studying at the University of Cologne and one year at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and will graduate with two master’s degrees: Master of Science in Sociology and Social Research and Master of Science in Population Studies.
  • NRW Doctoral Programme „GROW“ - Gerontological Research On Well-Being: GROW aims at identifying factors that hinder or promote well-being of people up to their senior years in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) to subsequently develop measures of improvement and/or maintenance of their status quo. All relevant projects are meant to contribute to an age-friendly culture in NRW and are based on a life course perspective.


A main transfer activity of this Key Research Initiative is the production of large-scale data infrastructures for the scientific community in Germany and abroad. Two major products are:

  • the German Family Panel (pairfam), which will be enhanced through the Family Demographic Panel (FReDA)
  • The longitudinal Survey on Quality of Life and Well-Being of the very old in North Rhine Westphalia (NRW80+), which will be supplemented through the D80+ project.

Moreover, our members are active in the scientific evaluation of large-scale policy projects (such as OBERBERG_FAIRsorgt) and contribute expertise to various advisory boards of institutions providing policy advice to the Federal and local governments, following the WiSo-Faculty’s motto “Today’s Ideas. Tomorrow’s Impact.