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Soziologisches Institut Forschungsgruppe Arbeit, Generation, Sozialstruktur (AGES)


Aktuelle Projekte

SwissGen – Generationenbeziehungen in der Schweiz

Mother, father, daughter, son. The SwissGen project is devoted to studying intergenerational relationships between adults and their parents. It studies their current relationships and, as applicable, their prior relationships with mothers and fathers who are now deceased. The research questions revolve around cohesion and solidarity as well as possible tension and conflict. They address the desires, goals, and opportunities of individuals and families as well as the conditions for intergenerational cohesion. Of particular interest is what strengthens cohesion and support between parents and children in adulthood ― and which factors tend to contribute to tension and conflict. The aims of the project include the collection of new, comprehensive generational data for Switzerland at large and all of its regions, the well-founded documentation and analysis of intergenerational relations, the identification of regional similarities and differences, the integration of Swiss findings into international comparisons, as well as empirically based conclusions for individuals, families, society, and politics.


Generationen im Vergleich

This long-term, comprehensive project deals with relations between family generations in all their essential aspects: demography, geographical distance and coresidence, contact, conflict, help, care, grandparenting, and financial transfers including inheritances. The goal is a comparative analysis of intergenerational cohesion among adults in European countries, based on the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). The concern is with family generations per se, but also with the relationship of welfare state and family, of public and private intergenerational solidarity. The broader aim is to derive a general model on generations, which can be used as a basis for detailed studies on individual countries or regions which offer further findings about special characteristics. The project will therefore also contribute to the further development of research on adult family generations. On the one hand, still too little is known about intergenerational relations in the individual countries. On the other hand, this applies in particular in regard to international comparisons. Thus, by means of alternative scenarios, political suggestions can be derived.


Inheritances are an expression of intergenerational solidarity in the family, which is by no means limited to the receipt of inheritance in the narrow sense. Bequeathing creates links between the deceased and the living family members; it provokes memories, strengthens family remembrance, and, as a last will and testimony of the bequeather, has a strong symbolic character. However, inheritances are not only important for families. They also have an effect, for example, on economic structures. This includes the consumption, saving, and labour behaviour of the (prospective) inheritors just as it influences business transfers, restructuring and company closures. At the same time, inheritance taxes are important sources of income for public budgets. This research project addresses, among other things, the following questions: Who inherits? Who bequeaths? When, over the life course, do inheritances primarily occur? What consequences do inheritances have for social stratification, accumulation of assets and provision for old age? And who in particular benefits from inheritances? This project includes a large number of talks and relevant (international) papers.



Abgeschlossene Projekte

Geld zwischen Generationen


Tamara Bosshardt

Research shows that financial support between parents and their children does not stop as soon as they reach the age of majority, but is part of lifelong intergenerational solidarity relations. In contrast to public financial support that benefits the elderly, private money transfers predominantly follow the cascade principle, that is, money flows from the older to the younger generations. As Switzerland is one of the richest OECD countries, transfer rates are comparably high and therefore allow a differentiated analysis of related factors and societal implications. This research project addresses the questions of who is supported and why: Is financial need the crucial factor or do people give money only because they have the opportunity to do so? What amounts are transferred between generations? What role plays the familial context? And what about those who do not fit in the cascade model because they support their parents? In order to answer these questions, the project investigates connections between intergenerational financial transfers, need, opportunities and family structures as well as the regional context. The project goals included the dissertation of Tamara Bosshardt (Bosshardt, Tamara 2024: Geld, Generation und Ungleichheit – Finanzielle Solidarität zwischen Erwachsenen und ihren Eltern. Wiesbaden: Springer VS).

Generation und Schicht


Ronny König

Recent studies on intergenerational solidarity point out that family ties have a significant function within and for the caring society. In this respect, the socio-economic composition of the family plays an important role, which affects individual lives as well as relations between the generations in the family. However, in what way does intergenerational solidarity depend on the affiliation to a specific social class? Do members of lower social classes lead different intergenerational relations in contrast to the middle and higher classes? How are family patterns linked to social positions? On the one hand, this research project examines the relevance of financial support in a three-generation perspective. On the other hand, it explores whether the quality and quantity of family contacts is linked to social classes. Furthermore, class-specific connections between monetary transfers and contacts are investigated. Hereby differences and similarities regarding class-specific intergenerational solidarity will be explored. The project goals included the dissertation of Ronny König (König, Ronny 2016: Bildung, Schicht und Generationensolidarität in Europa. Wiesbaden: Springer VS).

Wohnentfernung und Kontakte

Bettina Isengard

Geographical proximity between parents and their adult children is one of the most basic prerequisites for many forms of solidarity among generations, because proximity facilitates personal communication, help at home, support of grandchildren and also care. Conversely, geographical distance limits the possibilities of inter-generational solidarity. Thus the empirical investigation of geographical proximity is especially important in regard to: How far do generations live apart? Who moves far away, who stays close to the parents? Particular attention is also paid to the nature of intergenerational coresidence within the household, a common practice throughout Europe. Why is this the case, what patterns can be identified? One important consequence of proximity or distance is the kind and the frequency of contacts between generations. While numerous contacts between coresiding parents and adult children are the norm, what is about those living not together? In which way and how often do they keep in touch? Who remains in regular contact and who has cut of contact? The project goals included the habilitation of Bettina Isengard (Isengard, Bettina 2018: Nähe oder Distanz? Verbundenheit von Familiengenerationen in Europa. Opladen, Berlin & Toronto: Budrich UniPress).

Sozialräumliche Kontexte ungleicher Lebenschancen in der Schweiz

Christoph Zangger

Duration of Project: 2017-2022

To what extent do regional and local opportunity structures shape individual life chances? Would moving to the city improve schooling and employment outcomes of one’s children? Are there especially disadvantaged or advantaged groups that concentrate in certain areas? The project looks at these and related questions. Against the background of a long line of research looking at so called neighborhood effects, it more generally investigates the causes and consequences of residential segregation and mobility processes throughout Switzerland. Using rich individual level data (census, structural survey, and others), the project is the first of its kind to investigate such processes for Switzerland. The goal of the project is thus to create a complete “cartography of opportunity” of contemporary Switzerland, adding therewith a spatial component to socioeconomic unequal life chances throughout the life course. The research is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Forschungskredit Postdoc of the University of Zurich.


Klaus Haberkern

Duration of Project: 2005-2020

Care represents one of the most important means of support by adult children for their parents. The very old, in particular, are dependent on care from their offspring, as their partner, if present, is frequently no longer able to provide care. Those in need of care are reliant on continuous help. The regular and great time expenditure and the spatial closeness involved in care go along with a mutual dependency of caregivers and care-receivers. Physical and mental burdens, intensive contact, but also worries about the other person, can have an effect on the well-being of all involved. In this regard, the project looks more closely at both sides, i.e., both the receipt as well as the provision of care. What relationship do caregivers and care-receivers have to each other, how frequently and to what extent is care given, and what country differences can be discerned here? Based on the analysis of the three-generation context, the family can be considered as a care system. Therefore, not only individual care relations are examined, but also the whole care context. This also involves the welfare state, e.g. public services, legal obligations and family norms and their relation to private care.

Generationenbeziehungen junger Erwachsener

Ariane Bertogg

Duration of Project: 2013-2018

In general, previous studies on intergenerational family relations of adults have either surveyed the whole population or they have especially focused on the second half of life. These research agendas are not least due to available data sets supplying information on adult generations. However, recent additions to the Swiss TREE survey (“Transition from Education to Employment”) now offer the opportunity to investigate intergenerational family relationships of young adults. Therefore, this project focuses on 26 years-old children and their mostly middle-aged parents. Special preference is given to emotional closeness along with contact, coresidence and financial transfers. Among others the following questions are addressed: How closely are young adults connected with their middle-aged parents? Are there similar patterns such as in the elderly population? What are relevant factors for intergenerational cohesion? Amongst these, education, employment, financial background, geographical distance to parents, gender and health will be investigated. In addition, does the divorce of parents and its point in time play a relevant role? Are there other life events which affect family cohesion? Can one identify significant diversities between the different regions of Switzerland? The project goals included the dissertation of Ariane Bertogg (Bertogg, Ariane 2018: Zwischen Autonomie und Verbundenheit – Junge Erwachsene und ihre Eltern. Wiesbaden: Springer VS).

Zukunft von Familien – Familien der Zukunft

Klaus Preisner

Duration of Project: 2012-2018

The project “Future of Families – Families of the Future” focuses on changing family structures and family life in ageing societies (OECD countries). Against the background of demographic ageing, the main focus is on older and elderly persons, but young families with small children are considered as well. The following questions and research areas are covered: What do demographic data and projections tell us about different family types, children and the elderly? What is the potential of elderly family members in regard to offering child care and other family tasks? What is the risk of competing demands on their time and resources from other generations (e.g., grandchildren)? How will changing family and household structures (e.g. growing number of elderly single-person households, non-traditional families, etc.) affect families and the elderly as providers and recipients of family support and society as a whole? Furthermore, how might new technologies impact on family cohesion, family support and the reconciliation of work and family? The project pinpoints the main future challenges for families and family policy and provides suggestions for future-proof policies. It is an extended continuation of the project „Future of Families to 2030”.

Generation und Lebensqualität

Franz Neuberger

Duration of Project: 2010-2014

Different welfare regimes are struggling to find affordable solutions for the aging of the European population, ranging from a rediscovery of familial obligations to caregiver migration. The family as a traditional provider of intergenerational exchanges of help, money and care plays a crucial role in these scenarios and is subject to a constantly growing field of research. However, one aspect is still lacking recognition: How relevant is intergenerational solidarity for the quality of life of elderly people? The project will close this gap by focussing on the relation between different forms of intergenerational solidarity and the self-reported quality of life in old age in Europe. Do different welfare state regimes influence intergenerational exchange patterns and other forms of solidarity? If so, do these different patterns influence the quality of life of the growing elderly population? Are there systematic differences between the manifold European welfare regimes? In this regard, the different sources of intergenerational solidarity (e.g. associative and functional solidarity) will be related to the self-reported quality of life in old age in a comparative European perspective. The project goals included the dissertation of Franz Neuberger (Neuberger, Franz 2015: Kinder des Kapitalismus – Subjektivität, Lebensqualität und intergenerationale Solidarität in Europa. Berlin: Edition Sigma).

Generation und Geschlecht

Tina Schmid

Duration of Project: 2009-2013

Empirical studies indicate manifold connections between adult generations within families. These are clearly shaped by gender differences. Generally, daughters have more frequent contacts and emotionally closer relationships with their parents than sons. Gender differences may also have an influence on intergenerational time and money transfers such as care, help and financial support. These three forms of functional solidarity are the main focus of this research project. How does the exchange of help, care and financial support differ between mother-daughter, mother-son, father-daughter and father-son relationships? In which areas do daughters engage more strongly? Where are sons more involved and how can those differences be explained? Are there significant disparities between countries? Apart from the influence of individual need and opportunity structures of adult children and their parents, this project also examines the effects of different institutional and cultural settings. Thereby the question is raised to what extent intergenerational transfers from women and men as well as gender inequality in regard to functional solidarity are shaped by cultural models and welfare state institutions. The project goals included the dissertation of Tina Schmid (Schmid, Tina 2014: Generation, Geschlecht und Wohlfahrtsstaat – Intergenerationelle Unterstützung in Europa. Wiesbaden: Springer VS).

Beziehungen zwischen Eltern, Kindern und Enkeln im erweiterten Europa

Duration of Project: 2009-2012

This is the second Generation project of the Research Group AGES (LAbour, Generation, Stratification) which was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the University of Zurich. It is an extension of the previous project “Generations in Europe” – in three dimensions: 1) The thematic extension offers new insights into intergenerational coresidence, geographical distance and contacts as well as investigations of the special relations between grandparents and grandchildren. 2) The geographical extension is possible since the second wave of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) additionally includes Ireland, Poland and the Czech Republic – therefore 14 countries from all European regions can now be investigated. 3) The temporal extension offers, on the one hand, validation of previous results. On the other hand, stability and change can be surveyed with the help of longitudinal data. Furthermore, on the basis of these findings, consequences of family solidarity will be analysed, for example, in regard to individuals, but also in respect to social inequality and societal solidarity. This includes links between generations in the family and society, for example between private and public transfers for old age, but also the relationship between family solidarity and social inequality.

Grosseltern und Enkel

Corinne Igel

Duration of Project: 2006-2012

As a consequence of an increased life expectancy and under the conditions of healthy aging, for many elderly people grandparenthood has become a long and active phase of life. Starting with infancy, grandparents and their grandchildren often develop close relations, which last until the adulthood of the grandchild. Within this context the parents of the grandchild play an important role, particularly in the early years of grandparenthood. Parents function as „gatekeepers“, as they may actively influence the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. Their relationship, however, is not only relevant in terms of emotional closeness. Depending upon life phase and family constellation, different transfers between generations occur (e.g., help and financial support). This research project aims to describe and explain the different dimensions of functional solidarity between generations in a European context. Main topics will be childcare provided by the grandparents, financial transfers from grandparents and help from grandchildren. In regard to differences between European countries we will concentrate on the influence of institutional settings (e.g., public child care) as well as general values and cultural contexts. The project goals included the dissertation of Corinne Igel (Igel, Corinne 2012: Großeltern in Europa – Generationensolidarität im Wohlfahrtsstaat. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften).

Zukunft der Familie bis 2030

Klaus Preisner, Tina Schmid, Franz Neuberger

Duration of Project: 2010-2011

The project “Future of Families to 2030 – The Role of the Elderly in the Family as Providers and Recipients of Care” is part of the OECD project “The Future of Families to 2030”. In collaboration with research partners from the OECD network, we analyse expected challenges and opportunities for family and elderly care in OECD countries in the next twenty years. Thereby the following questions and research areas are covered: What do demographic projections tell us about the share of older people in need of care, the proportion of younger people potentially able to provide that care to relatives, and the number of elderly family members potentially able to offer child care and other family tasks? What is the risk of competing demands on their time and resources from other generations (e.g. grandchildren)? How will changing family and household structures (e.g. growing numbers of elderly single-person households, non-traditional families, etc.) affect families and the elderly as providers and recipients of care? Furthermore, technological developments such as ICT, medical technologies and telejobs are potential drivers of future family care. What are the prospects of widespread technological solutions in regard to caring for the elderly? How might these developments and changes impact on family cohesion, time management and the reconciliation of work and family? The project goals included an OECD report.


Martina Brandt

Duration of Project: 2005-2010

Personal, everyday and irregular support between family generations is an important expression of family solidarity. However, it is precisely the routinely provided practical help between family members that is often overlooked in research – although frequent help in the household and with shopping, repairs, gardening, dealing with the authorities and financial matters, etc., is of particular relevance. Who helps whom? Who is helped? To what extent and with what regularity is practical help in the household and in terms of bureaucratic matters exchanged between the generations? Are there systematic differences between European countries or between welfare states? In this regard, a whole series of (potentially) relevant country-specific features will be examined in terms of their influence on generational help, such as cultural attitudes, values and norms, denominations, historical developments and welfare state regularities (e.g., family and pension policies). The project goals included the dissertation of Martina Brandt (Brandt, Martina 2009: Hilfe zwischen Generationen – Ein europäischer Vergleich. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften).

Alltägliche Generationentransfers

Christian Deindl

Duration of Project: 2005-2010

Ordinary (private) intergenerational transfers refer to financial benefits or benefits with monetary value that are given during the giver’s lifetime (e.g., money payments, non-monetary or monetary gifts). The great importance of these ordinary transfers has been shown by several studies. However, these mainly concentrate on a very small number of countries. For instance, Switzerland has not been taken into account yet. Also, so far, international comparisons are very rare. The potential exchange character of financial transfers with help and care is equally neglected. The research goals of the project include questions in regard to the integration of the older generation in the family: Does an international comparison confirm that private intergenerational transfers correspond to a cascade model? This would support previous findings that older members of the family are far from being mere beneficiaries, but are also active providers of intergenerational solidarity. It also includes the question of the extent to which monetary transfers and personal help are given reciprocally. It is further of particular interest to explore the relation between intergenerational transfers and social inequality – in an international comparison. The project goals included the dissertation of Christian Deindl (Deindl, Christian 2011: Finanzielle Transfers zwischen Generationen in Europa. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften).

Generationen in Europa

Duration of Project: 2006-2009

This is the first Generation project of the Research Group AGES (LAbour, Generation, Stratification) which is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the University of Zurich. The goal of the project is the analysis of intergenerational solidarity in eleven Western European countries: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. The empirical analyses are based on the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Foci are the two central kinds of support between generations: time and money. Some of the questions are: How do adult children and parents deal with each other? Are their relationships more autonomy-based or solidarity-based? Is there a general “crisis of the family”, or are there far-reaching links between family generations, even if they no longer live in the same household? Are there differences between women and men (daughters, sons, mothers, fathers), regions and nationalities? The project offers excellent opportunities in terms of basic research, applied research, promoting young researchers, teaching, and politics. A substantial number of essays and talks resulted from this project, and a series of further projects are continued on the subject.


Duration of Project: 2004-2009

Parents support their offspring via many forms of intergenerational solidarity, be it the provision of space (coresidence), time (help, care, etc.) and money. Financial transfers occur in several ways, from smaller presents and regular payments to the transfer of wealth. Some of this wealth is bequeathed, some is passed on in the form of gifts. Although gifts as a sociological research topic is highly relevant, so far, we know very little about it. On the contrary, the huge growth in wealth following the Second World War underlines the growing importance of gifts. Reasons are a) inheritance taxes, b) the desire of beneficiaries for the earliest possible receipt of financial means, c) close solidarity between family generations, d) family norms and assignments as well as e) self-interest of the gift-givers to maintain their position in the family, including the expectation of receiving something in return. Among other things, the project aims to address the following questions: How significant is the importance of gifts? How much is being transferred and who are the donors? What is the relationship between inheritances and gifts? What is the relation between gifts and social inequality? To what extent, for example, are (high-value) gifts especially given to people who are already in advantageous positions in terms of education, income, property ownership, etc.?

Flexibilisierung: Folgen für Arbeit und Familie

Duration of Project: 2005-2007

The labour market currently finds itself in a state of flux. The old image of secure traditional working relations has been challenged. Flexible people should be professionally and geographically mobile, partake in lifelong learning, react quickly to changing work situations and think more in terms of projects than fixed jobs. What are the consequences of the flexibilisation of labour for private lifestyles, for partner and generation relationships, for fertility, and for the ability to reconcile one’s job with childcare or care of the elderly? Important research questions also emerge in regard to social structure: Who is especially affected by flexibilisation, who can deal with it in a particularly productive way, for whom does it result in more opportunities than risks? Who are the losers of flexibilisation and who are the winners? To what extent can some population groups assert their own flexibility demands on the labour market? What consequences emerge for social inequalities generated by the labour market? What subjective self-evaluations can be discerned in terms of integration or exclusion? And what is the relationship between flexibilisation, family and social structure? Following lectures and seminars on the topic, a conference was held at the University of Zurich. Selected presentations have been published in a book (Szydlik, Marc (ed.) 2008: Flexibilisierung – Folgen für Arbeit und Familie. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften).

Digitale Spaltung

Sylvia E. Korupp

Duration of Project: 2003-2005

This project, carried out in collaboration with Sylvia E. Korupp, PhD, University of Erfurt, deals with a new form of social inequality, namely the digital divide. Central to the investigation is the private use of computers and the Internet: How widespread are these new technologies in private households, which groups of persons use them particularly often, and to what extent can trends or developments be discerned in this area? Computer and Internet use is, after all, not only an expression of social inequality; rather, the corresponding knowledge and abilities also constitute an important cause of social disparities, not least due to better chances on the labour market. One of the project goals is to address individual, family and cultural-contextual factors of the digital divide. There are also links to generations, with regard to both family generations and societal generations. For instance, to what extent are new technologies passed on through generational relationships in the family, i.e., in this case from children and adolescents to their parents? At the same time, in the sense of societal generations, it is possible to identify so-called “technology generations”, i.e., birth cohorts with better or worse positions in the digital divide. Research results were, for example, published in Korupp, Sylvia E., Marc Szydlik 2005: Causes and Trends of the Digital Divide. In: European Sociological Review, 21, 4: 409-422.

Job Matching im internationalen Vergleich

Duration of Project: 1993-2002

The applicability of acquired qualifications is an important research topic, not only due to its causes, but in particular also owing to its consequences for the political economy, for businesses, and not least for individuals. The project is devoted to the following questions: To what extent do national education systems provide qualifications that are required on the labour market? Is it rather the employees with a vocational or those with a university education who are in a position to apply their abilities and knowledge at their workplace? What does it mean for social inequalities generated by the labour market, be it in terms of income, be it risk of unemployment, if the work tasks are in accordance with the training or education, or if indeed this is not the case? Are the respective “investments” in education even worthwhile if the abilities and knowledge learned are ultimately barely or not at all required? What differences can be found in this regard between women and men, between social classes, and between different countries or economic systems (using the example here of the GDR, the “old” Federal Republic of Germany and the USA)? This longer-term project involves a whole series of publications, which was brought to a preliminary conclusion with the paper Szydlik, Marc 2002: Vocational Education and Labour Markets in Deregulated, Flexibly Coordinated, and Planned Societies. In: European Societies, 4, 1: 79-105.