Research in the Social Demography Department has three aims. Firstly it seeks to describe demographic changes by monitoring changes in the occurrence and timing of demographic events and in the interrelatedness of events. Secondly it wishes to explain these changes by using the life-course perspective as a theoretical framework to integrate contributions from several scientific disciplines, by applying state-of-the-art methodology and by collecting and analysing longitudinal datasets. And thirdly it seeks to illuminate the social impacts of demographic changes by focusing on both the micro- and the macro-consequences of changing life courses.
Theoretically the programme is inspired by the life-course perspective that serves as a general theoretical framework to lend coherence to the research activities of the department. Within this perspective the emphasis is on the fact that demographic behaviour occurs within different time dimensions (biographical time, historical time, social time) and in connection with events in the lives of important others (linked lives). Inspired by these ideas the research programme pays attention to such topics as the individual life-course precursors of demographic events, the impact of institutional arrangements on life-course decisions and the influence of family members on demographic behaviour. Methodologically the programme uses state-of-the-art data-analytic procedures to arrive at answers to pertinent demographic questions. A wide variety of multivariate techniques is applied including event history analysis, multilevel analysis, simultaneous equation analysis and sequence analysis. With regard to data the programme uses a double strategy. On the one hand official data and large datasets collected by other institutions are used. On the other hand data are collected by NIDI itself. This data-collection often includes a longitudinal and multi-actor dimension.
The activities of the SoDem department are structured in four research strands. The first two strands focus on the study of two demographically and socially dense periods in the life course: the early stages of the life course, with the transition to adulthood at its core, and the later stages of the life course, with the so-called 'third age' i.e. the life phase starting with retirement at its core. The third strand focuses on intergenerational relationships. The common denominator of these strands is the 'linked lives' dimension of the life-course perspective. A fourth strand addresses the interplay of population trends and policies (the 'social time' and 'historical time' dimension of the life-course perspective).