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3 PhD Studentships With Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study

Understanding Society studentships are supervised by leading scholars based at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex. The Institute for Social and Economic Research has a rich and interdisciplinary research culture. ISER research students are full and active members of a research community where students, early career researchers and established subject experts work closely together. We provide a challenging and supportive academic environment with outstanding working facilities, resources and technical support. 

To apply for a studentship you need to: 

  • Review the studentship descriptions below and choose the project for which you are eligible and which is the best fit for you. 
  • Contact the named supervisor for this project for an informal discussion at least two weeks before the deadline for applications. If, after this discussion, you feel you are a good fit for this research project, apply for a PhD place at ISER before the 15 January 2021. 
  • Interviews for the studentships will take place in late January. 

 

Studentship 1: Families across households and generations

  • Duration: three years, beginning in October 2021 and completing in 2024
  • Supervisor: Professor Michaela Benzeval and Dr Alita Nandi, ISER, University of Essex
  • Please contact either supervisor for informal discussions about your ideas: mbenzeval [at] essex.ac.uk, anandi [at] essex.ac.uk
  • Please apply through the University of Essex online portal application system stating this ISER studentship in your application. The deadline for applications to this studentship is 15 January 2021. Interviews will take place in late January. 
  • This studentship covers fees at the home/EU level and provides a tax free stipend to cover your living costs, this is set at £15,285 per year. Studentships also provide access to research training funds. 

One of the unique and exciting features of Understanding Society is its household longitudinal design which allows us to understand complex inter-family dynamics – for example, the influence of parents’ behaviours on their children as they grow up, and vice versa, or how each partner’s employment choices or health experiences impact on the other over time. However, there has been almost no attention on how the life chances and outcomes that siblings have in adulthood reflect their shared family of origin on individual life trajectories. While there are studies that investigate whether being an only child or birth order influence adult characteristics, rarely if ever, can they examine all the siblings from the same family as adults. Similarly, while there are studies of intergenerational transmission of education or intergenerational reciprocity, these are often snapshots, rather than following different generations in parallel over time. Currently, Understanding Society is collecting data from approximately 19,000 two generation families and 3,000 three generation families. The focus of this PhD should be to explore the rich data on families within and across households and generations to address important research questions. For examples, the kinds of questions such a PhD might address include:

  • How does the development of the new generation life trajectories and households reflect their parents’ lives and each other’s? Do children’s lives increasingly reflect those of their parents or their siblings as they mature as adults? What characteristics of children or their parents, in childhood or as adulthood, make this more or less likely?
  • As parents mature and age, how does this change the family dynamics across siblings and generations?
  • Does the health and health behaviours of siblings converge or diverge as time from the family of origin progresses? Is this influenced by factors in the family or origin or their new living arrangements?

In their application, candidates should set out the kinds of research questions that they would be interested in exploring in their PhD and why, and put forward ideas about how they might answer these questions using Understanding Society data. Candidates should have a strong foundation in quantitative skills; knowledge of longitudinal analysis techniques would be an advantage.

 

Studentship 2: Innovations in data collection methods in a household panel survey

  • Duration: three years, beginning in October 2021 and completing in 2024
  • Supervisor: Professor Annette Jäckle 
  • Please contact supervisor for informal discussions about your ideas: aejack [at] essex.ac.uk
  • Please apply through the University of Essex online portal application system stating this ISER studentship in your application. The deadline for applications to this studentship is 15 January 2021. Interviews will take place in late January. 
  • This studentship covers fees at the home/EU level and provides a tax free stipend to cover your living costs, this is set at £15,285 per year. Studentships also provide access to research training funds. 

Recent technological changes and increases in the costs of survey data collection are leading to shifts in the way that National Statistical Institutes and survey organisations collect data: questionnaire based survey data are increasingly being linked with process-generated (‘big’) data and with new forms of data collected with new technologies. The aims of combining data generated in different ways are to improve cost efficiency and increase the research value of data by providing new, more detailed, or more accurate measures than can be collected with survey questions alone. Combining data generated in different ways however has implications for total survey error, in particular for selectiveness in who participates and measurement quality.

Understanding Society has an ongoing programme of research investigating innovations in data collection methods. Our research makes extensive use of opportunities for experimentation offered by the Understanding Society Innovation Panel.

This studentship will provide the opportunity for a talented student to take advantage of our programme of work. Research questions could for example include the following:

  • How best to implement data collection using mobile devices, to maximise participation, minimise selection biases, and maximise accuracy of measurement? For current research that we are conducting on this topic, see here.
  • How best to implement periodic mini surveys to identify life events that happen in the interval between panel interviews, and could be used to trigger follow-up surveys. This will include experimentation with different modes, including text messaging. For current research, see here.
  • How to maximise informed consent to data linkage in web surveys? This could include analyses of experimental data and of paradata about how respondents answer consent questions. For current research, see here.

 

Studentship 3: Employment and family formation among ethnic minorities socialised in the UK 

  • Duration: three or four years, beginning in October 2021 and completing in 2025. This studentship can be taken as a 1+3 studentship, where the first year is study for an MSc, followed by three years of doctoral research. If you already have an appropriate MSc qualification, this award will support three years of doctoral research. 
  • Supervisor: Dr Alita Nandi
  • Please contact supervisor for informal discussions about your ideas: anandi [at] essex.ac.uk 
  • Please apply through the University of Essex online portal application system stating this ISER studentship in your application. The deadline for applications to this studentship is 15 January 2021. Interviews will take place in late January. 
  • This studentship covers fees at the home/EU level and provides a tax free stipend to cover your living costs, this is set at £15,285 per year. Studentships also provide access to research training funds. 

UK born ethnic minorities and those who arrived in the UK very young have been socialised in this country and thus expected to adopt the cultural and social norms of the UK. As at least one of their parents or grandparents were born outside this country and expected to have differing social and cultural norms, the 1.5+ generations have to straddle two cultures. While there is some information about the family patterns, expectations and attitudes towards family formation, and experiences in the labour market (Berrington 2018, Li and Heath 2018, Longhi 2018), little is known about how these two choices (family formation and participation in the labour market) influence each other. While some studies have looked at the role of social and neighbourhood factors affecting employment patterns among ethnic minorities (Zuccotti & Platt 2016, Alcarons 2018) these studies have not considered that family and employment choices are the result of joint decision making. There has been a particular interest in these questions for UK born ethnic minority women. 

Understanding Society is the only data source for longitudinal analysis of ethnic minorities and migrants. In addition to being a multi-topic survey, where questions are asked about almost every aspect of a person’s life (income, wealth, education, labour market, health and wellbeing, attitudes etc.), the Study also collects retrospective histories of employment and family/partnership formation. Understanding Society also allows linking of these data with geographical level information, enabling research into the influence of local area characteristics. 

Exploiting this rich data, this PhD will investigate: 

  • The temporal pattern of labour market participation, partnership formation and fertility and if these are different for 1st and 1.5+ generation ethnic minorities  
  • The influences of family, social and neighbourhood behaviour and attitudes among the 1.5+ generation on their decision making 
  • How all these decisions vary by gender, ethnic group and social class 

This studentship will be based in the accredited SeNSS DTP Sociology Pathway. 

More information
Country: 
United Kingdom
City: 
Essex
Institution: 
Understanding Society, Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex
Deadline: 
15/01/2021