Funded PhD Studentships with Understanding Society

Understanding Society is accepting applications for funded PhD Studentships starting in autumn 2020.

The Insitute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex has a vibrant and innovative research culture. As the home of Understanding Society, ISER produces world-leading research on longitudinal and household panel studies. Every year the department has a number of funded PhD Studentships and applications are now open for 2020.

Families across households and generations

Supervised by Professor Michaela Benzeval and Dr Alita Nandi.

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?

Innovations in data collection in a household panel survey

Supervised by 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 both Studentships is the 17 February 2020. For more information on how to apply see the ISER website.

SOC-B Studentships 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. It is anticipated that projects will include both strong social and biological science content and inter-departmental panel supervision will be developed and finalised in year 1 of the studentship.

Find out more about the SOC-B Studentships on the ISER website. The deadline for applications to the SOC-B programme is 10 February 2020.