New PhD Studentships

Funded PhD Studentships working with the Understanding Society team are now open for applications.  

Understanding Society is inviting applications from potential research students who would like to carry out reseach at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex. Fully funded, full-time Studentships are available, covering tuition fees and a stipend, to start in October 2019. Studentships are open to all suitably qualified applicants from the UK and EU. 

Familes across households and generations

Supervisor: Professor Michaela Benzeval

One of the unique and exciting features of Understanding Society, and BHPS before it, 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, or couples’ employment choices or health experiences on each other over time. However, there has been almost no attention on how the life chances and outcomes that siblings have over their life course reflect their family of origin and/or each other’s. 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 again there are studies of intergenerational transmission of education or intergenerational reciprocity, these are often snapshots, rather than the researcher being able to follow the two generations in parallel over time. This PhD will investigate three broad themes of family dynamics as the different generations move into different households.

  • How the development of the new generation households reflects 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

The PhD will build on the audit of BHPS families included in the bid, which aims to identify family patterns of all BHPS respondents who remain in the study and those have left it. For study leavers, attempts will be made to re-contact and interview them, adding to information available for this PhD project. The student will be able to influence the design of the data collection. The resource development work that accompanies this studentship (i.e. re-engaging with ‘lost’ BHPS members) will be of considerable benefit to a wide range of researchers that use Understanding Society and add significant value to the longitudinal family basis of the study. The student would have the opportunity to shape how this resource is developed and create a coherent programme of research in this area, guided by the supervisor.

Innovations in data collection methods in a household panel survey

Supervisor: Professor Annette Jäckle

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 will 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? This will include experimentation with mobile methods to collect nutrition data.
  • 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 (text messaging, apps, browser-based).
  • Studying the extent and nature of missingness in multiple linked data sources, to examine how best to adjust for missingness and experimentally test ways of increasing consent to linkage. This will also include secondary analyses of existing data.

The deadline for applications for the above Studentships is 3 February 2019. For more information on how to apply please see the ISER website

Soc-B Centre for Doctoral Training in Biosocial Research

Soc-B studentships are based across social and biological science departments in three centres of excellence in biosocial research: University of Essex, UCL and University of Manchester.

Soc-B PhD studentships will include a first year spent in project rotations and biosocial training before selecting a PhD research topic for years 2-4. Researchers at Essex University are at the forefront of research into social-biological connections and can offer expert supervision and projects in this area. Our Centre for Doctoral Training in Biosocial research offers studentships at the interface of social and biological science. 

Find out more and apply.