Research Projects

The Department of Sociology receives funding from a variety of granting agencies to support our various research projects. This funding supports hiring graduate and undergraduate students, paying for the direct costs of research (travel, data collection, equipment), and provides assistance for disseminating the results of the research to the broader research community, policy-makers and other relevant members of the community. In the last 5 years, our major funders have included the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, the Ontario Mental Health Foundation, and the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre. Major current and funded research projects include:

SSHRC logoEconomic Conditions and Democratic Values

Principal Investigator: Bob Andersen
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

Economic conditions impact a wide array of social and political attitudes important to democracy. This project evaluates the impact of economic conditions, both within Canada and across modern democracies, on a wide range of attitudes considered important to the health of modern democracies. In particular, it will uncover the extent to which community and national level economic conditions affect the relationship between people's own economic positions (i.e., their social class or income) and their attitudes. This project will combine and analyze data from several rich survey datasets and other official sources to determine the extent to which key economic indicators interact in their effects on four sets of attitudes widely considered important to democracies: social trust, social and political tolerance, attitudes toward economic inequality (including the welfare state, and redistribution), and attitudes towards democracy, government institutions and political efficacy.

SSHRC logoPlanting Empires, Producing Science: Botanical Gardens, Botany and Empire

Principal Investigator: Zaheer Baber
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

This project examines the consequences of the colonial encounter in South and Southeast Asia for the emergence of elements of botanical science. The primary focus is on the network of botanical gardens in South and Southeast Asia that were established to facilitate the global transfer of plants, horticultural knowledge, techniques and an emergent scientific culture. The Calcutta Botanical Gardens established in 1787 just a few years after the Royal Gardens at Kew, was the main node, and was linked to a number of botanic gardens in Malaya, Ceylon and India.  Amateur naturalists working with local cultivators and horticulturalists played a major role in the transfer and the simultaneous transformation of horticultural techniques and knowledge that led to the development of formal botanical knowledge. The botanical gardens that provided the institutional home for a number of amateur European naturalists also contributed to the emergence of elements of modernity through incorporation of a variety of exotic plants under the grid of a rational binomial taxonomical scheme developed by Carl Linneaus.  The co-production of colonial rule and the development of elements of botanical knowledge and institutions in Asia and Europe is the main focus of this research project. The results of this project will contribute to a better understanding of the necessarily interconnected histories and social dynamics of societies and knowledge.

SSHRC logoInteractions Across Boundaries: Social Segregation in Multiethnic Urban Neighbourhoods

Principal Investigator: Brent Berry
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

A stroll through urban neighbourhoods in most large Canadian cities reveals a mix of people, a consequence of the relatively low level of residential segregation compared to other large North American cities. However, despite the outward appearance of racial and ethnic integration on the streets, the actual extent of social integration is unclear. Understanding if and when proximity leads to contact and social integration requires a closer look at how urban residents form associations and why.   This research asks how separateness and segregation are maintained despite spatial proximity.  It advances conceptual understandings of segregation beyond physical boundaries and assumptions of contact to encompass physical, social, and psychological boundaries. It assesses the boundaries of segregation in five ethnically heterogeneous and three ethnically homogenous communities in greater Toronto, measuring spatial and social segregation at three levels of analysis in each community (using neighbourhood, within-neighbourhood and personal sphere measures).  Investigating patterns of interaction within particular settings allows a broader look of the full range of boundaries that characterize segregation in an increasingly diverse metropolis.

SSHRC logoSocial and Economic Integration of Immigrant Children and Young Adults

Principal Investigator: Monica Boyd
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

Immigrants to Canada frequently arrive with young children and/or have children in Canada. What happens to these offspring, often termed the 1.5 and the second generation, is an important aspect of migrant integration.  This project makes use of the 2006 census master database which provides far superior data than the previous censuses for understanding the integration of 1.5 and second generation immigrants.  The research focuses on the integration of the 1.5 and second generation vis-à-vis other generations in three core areas: the household and family context of childhood; intermarriage and living arrangements of immigrant offspring; educational attainments and labour market integration of immigrant offspring. This study will inform and extend discussions in immigration policy by observing the incorporation of generations born or raised in Canada. The benefits (or costs) of immigration are long term, and policy evaluations should not be short-sighted.

SSHRC logoThe Social Bases of Democracy in the Middle East and North Africa

Principal Investigator: Robert Brym
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

This project systematically explores the development of democracy in all countries of the Middle Eastern and North African region. It focuses on these three central issues: (1) To what degree does Islam impede democratic development? (2) What role are voluntary associations playing in the democracy movement? (3) How effective are social networking media such as Facebook in advancing democracy? The project utilizes multi-wave survey data regularly collected by the Gallup organization in all 22 Middle Eastern and North African countries from 2005 to the present.

SSHRC logoCartographies of Gender: The Dynamics of Global Stratification in Gender-Related Refugee Case Law

Principal Investigator: Hae Yeon Choo
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

This project analyzes the role of gender in the making of global stratification patterns and the practice of global human rights in refugee claims in Canada. In order to be granted refugee status, refugee claimants need to demonstrate that they meet the definition of a refugee stipulated by the United Nation's Convention on Refugees, by being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion or, since 1993 in Canada, on grounds of gender-related persecution. In this process, refugee adjudicators interpret the claimants' narratives and decide what constitutes a valid gendered victimhood, which then constitutes a discourse that pulls together not only notions of gender and human rights, but the relationship between refugee-sending and refugee-receiving nation-states. This study explores the shifting dynamics of global stratification that emerge from the encounter between women refugee claimants and state adjudicators at the site of refugee case law.

SSHRC logoThe Stratification of the Legal Profession in Canada

Principal Investigator: Ronit Dinovitzer
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

This study documents and analyzes the internal stratification of the legal profession in Canada. It measures the current stratification in terms of salary differentials and professional status afforded to different sectors, settings and fields of law, and in terms of time allocated to different areas of law. it also seeks to determine the ways in which social, cultural and economic capital influence access to the various branches and strata in the legal profession. By pursuing a nationally representative sample design, this research addresses issues of regional differences, varying labour markets as well as varying markets for legal services, and the importance of local legal culture.  The project seeks to identify the various forms of capital – social, cultural and economic – that come together in the construction of lawyer careers. For instance, it examines the ways in which social class, law school attended, connections, organizational leadership, government service, and expertise are accessed and valued differentially across the legal profession. Inequality in the legal domain has far-reaching implications for a democratic society. This study will map out the differences between young lawyers moving into fields that serve individuals or the public good and those who serve private business interests. Furthermore, inequality in the legal domain is cause for concern because it denotes uneven access to a profession that is not only prestigious and well-paid in Canada, but also has important links to state power, with many politicians themselves coming from within the profession’s ranks.

SSHRC logoThe Social and Economic Well-Being of the Children of Migrant Workers in Urban China

Principal Investigator: Eric Fong
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

China is changing rapidly. One major demographic development is the monumental increase in migration from rural to urban area.  Major cities in China, such as Shanghai and Beijing, have received a huge influx of rural immigrants over the past 30 years due to increased labour demand in the big urban centres. An estimated 114 million people have packed up and moved house in the past few decades. Many of these migrants have have begun to raise families there.Professor Fong's new research project will study the children of these migrant workers and see how well their families are doing economically and socially after having moved to the big city. Beginning with public data, the project will include a pilot study that will find solutions to the difficulties inherent in conducting research on an almost-hidden population in China.

SSHRC logoImmigrant Businesses in Small, Medium and Large Metropolises

Principal Investigator: Eric Fong
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council


In recent decades, many immigrants entering Canada have become entrepreneurs seeking new opportunities and financial security. This study explores the ways in which city ecological characteristics in metropolises of different size shape the operations and earnings of immigrant businesses and the earnings of those involved.  In this study, immigrant business is defined as businesses owned by immigrants.  The study investigates the distribution patterns of immigrant businesses in small, medium, and large metropolises, including the number of immigrant businesses, the industries in which immigrant businesses are operating, and the socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds of immigrant entrepreneurs.  It also explores the operations and the economic returns of individuals participating in immigrant businesses, and the social consequences for businesses owners and employees working in immigrant businesses.  The study draws from census data and survey data.  As more immigrants settle in small and medium size metropolitan areas, this project will help us to move beyond the understanding of immigrant businesses in large metropolitan areas. This project will provide solid researched knowledge of the issues faced by immigrants in business and will help governments and front-line workers develop more effective economic policies for immigrants planning to start their own businesses.

CIHR logoKeeping Gay and Bi-Sexual Men Safe: A History of HIV Prevention Work in Toronto

Principal Investigator: Adam Green
Funding Source: Canadian Institutes for Health Research

HIV prevention work for men who have sex with men (MSM) represents a front-line institutional response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This study provides a social history of MSM HIV prevention work in Toronto--a city with the highest concentration of HIV infected MSM and one of the most well-developed outreach and prevention programs in Canada. The study focuses on the institutional processes that underpin front-line HIV prevention outreach and service organizations, including: 1) How have MSM HIV prevention programs executed prevention services over time and what has been their relationship to each other and to the state? 2) What expert epidemiological, social scientific and local folk knowledges regarding HIV have emerged over the past 25 years and how have they been translated to prevention work? 3) What impact have external stakeholders, including federal and provincial funders and non-state actors such as the media and ethnic based community leaders, had on the form and substance of prevention work? 4) How has the target MSM subject been constructed in discourse and how has it changed over time? The study examines the history in which key AIDS Service Organizations (ASO) and ethnocultural community based organizations contested, coordinated and transformed HIV prevention for the MSM population of Toronto.

SSHRC logoCustomized Knowledges: Risk, Diversity and Gender in Specialized Courts

Principal Investigator: Kelly Hannah-Moffat and Paula Maurutto
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council


Over the past decade, ‘specialized’ (or problem-solving) courts have emerged as a legal alternative to conventional courts.  These courts endeavor to transform adversarial court processes into more therapeutic and culturally responsive practices.  This national study examines the systemic and legal issues that emerge when therapy and law are integrated and/or when conventional courts are modified to respond to specific concerns. The project analyzes nine specialized courts from five jurisdictions across Canada (New Brunswick, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon).  It will move beyond specific analysis of therapeutic jurisprudence to study the range of perspectives informing the development and operation of specialized courts.  Because these courts are relatively new, they provide a useful opportunity for analyzing theoretical issues of risk, gender, race and community/court interactions.

CCKTeaching, Learning and Practicing Qualitative Research in China

Principal Investigator: Ping Chun-Hsiung
Funding Source: Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange

Beginning in 1958, Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) instituted a massive campaign to rapidly modernize China through increased collectivization, grain production, and industrial output. Called "The Great Leap Forward" (GLF), it stressed the superiority of Chinese Marxist society over the capitalist Western world and aimed to move China from socialism to communism by eliminating the market/capitalist economy and undermining local feudal structures. To ensure that this massive program of change was successful, Mao launched a nationwide ‘investigative research’ campaign of ‘mass sociology’ to monitor the GLF’s progress (or the lack thereof). But the data collection and analysis methods of the investigative research were heavily influenced by, and designed to support, the CCP’s state-building agenda. This research will study the production of ‘empirical’ knowledge during the GLF and its impact on the policy errors that caused lasting damage to the reputation of sociology and qualitative research (QR) in China.


Ontario logoEating Off-Grid: Understanding Consumer Motivation in the Alternative Food Sector

Principal Investigator: Josee Johnston
Funding Source: Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation Early Researcher Award

For a variety of personal and political reasons, consumers are increasingly turning to alternative food venues. This research untangles the web of motivations guiding these consumers. the study includes a survey to document the demographic profile of consumers engaging with the alternative food sector in the Greater Toronto Area, as well as focus group and interview-based research exploring consumer motivations. This research furthers our understanding of consumer involvement in alternative agricultural sector, and how consumers express their politics through food choices. It sheds light on the political significance of alternative agriculture sector in Ontario.

SSHRC logoPolitics, the Media and Immigrant Integration Debates in the Netherlands, Germany and Canada

Principal Investigator: Anna Korteweg
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

This research project analyzes the role of the media in shaping immigrant integration policies in the Netherlands, Germany, and Canada. The media play an important but variable role in the formation of the integration policy domain in each country. As these countries developed integration policies, they struggled over whether multiculturalism, adherence to liberal democratic values, or ethnic affiliation should be the basis for national identity and belonging. The countries differ in which ideology has historically dominated these struggles: multiculturalism in Canada, a mix of multiculturalism and liberal democratic values in the Netherlands, and ethnic affiliation in Germany. However, in their current iteration, integration debates in the Netherlands and Germany seem to be converging on assimilationism centered on the adoption of liberal democratic values. In the Netherlands, and to a lesser degree in Germany, this convergence is focused on a fear of a growing Islamist presence. Outside Quebec, Canada provides a contrasting case; cultural issues are less dominant in discussions of the position of immigrants and multiculturalism remains a dominant thread in debate.  To research the shape and extent of the media’s influence on the policy making process, the analysis asks a) how the media depicts immigrants and immigrant integration, b) whether issue framings first appear in newspaper media or in parliamentary debates, and c) how institutionalized linkages between media and political actors lead to reporting on some but not other issues.  Ultimately, this research deepens our understanding of the ways in which media debates on national identity and belonging influence liberal democratic deliberation.

SSHRC logoTesting the Narrative of Penal Change: The conditions of Confinement in the Netherlands and the UK in the 21st Century

Principal Investigator: Candace Kruttschnitt
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

This study revisits a classic work in comparative penal policy, David Downes’ (1988), Contrasts in Tolerance. Downes examined Dutch and English post-war criminal justice policies through the mid-1980s and found that prisons in the Netherlands provided more humane and open environments. Over the ensuing twenty years, crime control policies and imprisonment rates changed in both England and the Netherlands rendering Downes’ initial comparison an excellent baseline from which we can explicitly test and ground the theoretical claim of widespread growth in punitiveness. As Downes did, this study conducts interviews with Dutch prisoners currently held in England and English prisoners currently held in the Netherlands, documenting how their experiences measure up to the hypothesized changes in penality that are thought to have occurred over the past two decades. The project makes explicit the ways in which punishment is enacted in different cultural and political contexts.
By delving into the experiences of imprisoned individuals, this study makes important contributions to sociological and criminological knowledge by confronting the claims of theorists who argue the nature of penality in the twenty-first century has fundamentally changed. This approach not only has broad theoretical relevance, in its consideration of the micro implementation of macro developments, but it also has policy relevance. The vast majority of prisoners will eventually return to society and it is critical that we understand how their conditions of confinement affect them.

SSHRC logoNegotiating the Boundaries of Rights and Membership: Precarious Immigration and the Toronto District School Board

Principal Investigator: Patricia Landolt
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

This project studies the ways that public schools in Toronto produce meanings of membership and practice inclusion and exclusion in the context of encounters with precarious status migrants. In 2007, the Toronto District School Board adopted a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy with regard to the immigration status of their students. This decision put the spotlight on debates concerning the right to access public education regardless of legal status. This decision re-drew and extended the boundary, at least nominally, of membership in the "public" domain of public schooling and redefined rights and meanings of membership for people with precarious or less than full status. This project follows the ways in which this 2007 decision affects every day practice and interactions between teachers, administrators and families with precarious immigration status.

SSHRC logoAccess to Higher Education: Application and Admission to Top-Tier American Universities

Principal Investigator: Ann Mullen
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council


This study takes up the topic of university choice among a large, nationally-representative group of U.S. high school students.   Specifically, this study answers the following empirical questions: among academically qualified students, how do gender, race, ethnicity, immigration status and socio-economic status (SES) correlate with the likelihood of applying and being accepted to a top-tier institution?  Second, what factors help explain the differing application behaviour of qualified students?  The rationale for this study comes from a growing awareness that while higher education has expanded dramatically worldwide over the past few decades, access to higher education continues to vary by social background, race, ethnicity and gender.  Further, while students’ previous academic achievement explains some of this variation, even when academic ability is held constant, more advantaged youth are both more likely to enter higher education and more likely to enter top-tier institutions.  Because patterns of stratification in higher education may be explained in part by qualified students’ educational choices, deepening our understanding of the influences on those choices bears import for developing appropriate social policies.  

SSHRC logoTowards Productive Welfare States: The Structural and Ideational Bases of Social Investment Policy Reforms in Canada, Australia, Japan and South Korea

Principal Investigator: Ito Peng
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council


Since 1990, a number of welfare states in remarkably different parts of the world have developed surprisingly similar policy reforms. In Canada and Australia, for example, the idea of “investing in children” has been played out in a proliferation of social policies and programs aimed at early childhood education, child care, and support for families with children; in Japan and South Korea, the idea of “active welfare” has manifested in noticeable expansions of public provisions in child care, elderly care, and family support programs for single parent and working parent families. In all these countries new social policies are emphasizing family, women, and children, a policy sector that, unlike pension and health care, has been hitherto low on the government’s policy priority list, more a private matter rather than public policy concern. This research compares Canada and Australia – two Anglo-Saxon liberal welfare states, and Japan and South Korea – two East Asian conservative welfare states within Asia Pacific region – in order to assess the significance of this apparent convergence in social policy reforms. The project asks whether these observations of similar social policy reform demonstrate a mere coincidence or a new and more universal public policy reform trajectory. It addresses the causes of these social policy changes, and asks why such seemingly different contexts produce such similar choices of policy solutions. Ultimately, this project asks what these changes tell us about the nature of welfare state transformation.

SSHRC logoMuslim Minorities in France, Quebec and Canada: Social, Economic and Political Integration

Principal Investigator: Jeff Reitz
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

This project compares the integration of Muslim minorities in France, Quebec and English Canada, considering social, economic and political aspects of integration, and based on data from large-scale surveys in each setting and qualitative data from focus group sessions. The project seeks to identify differences across settings, and find reasons for differences in terms of minority characteristics, mainstream attitudes and debates, institutional structures, and public policies.

QNRFKin Influences on Qatari Women's Transitions into the Labor Force: A Panel Study

Principal Investigator: Rania Salem
Funding source: Qatar National Research Fund

This project investigates the pathways by which gendered attitudes and roles among parents and other kin influence young Qatari women’s entry into the labor market. It examines young women’s educational choices and their empowerment as factors that mediate the effect of kin-related variables on their labour force participation. This study leverages a two-wave panel survey to establish an appropriate temporal ordering of predictors and outcomes. It is based on interviews with triads of mothers, fathers, and unmarried daughters (aged 18-24 years) and follow-up interviews with daughters 12 months later. Parallel qualitative interviews clarify the mechanisms by which the specified factors affect young women's labour force participation. This study will inform policies that enable Qatari women to participate more fully in the economic realm, thus enhancing the population's human capital.

SSHRC logoNetwork Structure and the Quality of Individual and Partnered Life among Older Adults

Principal Investigator: Markus Schafer
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

For older adults, social networks matter for quality of life, offering opportunities for continued engagement in society. This project studies the importance of the network structures of older adults. It goes beyond studying the types of individuals with whom older adults relate by studying the ways that network structure itself influences quality of life. This study uses data from two waves of the National Social Life Health and Aging Project to understand the advantages and disadvantages of density and opportunities for independence within the close social networks of older adults.


CIHR logoDemands and Resources in Work and Family Life and their Implications for Stress and Health among Canadians

Principal Investigator: Scott Schieman
Funding Source: Canadian Institutes for Health Research

This research project assesses the experiences of stress in work and family life for Canadians and their implications for health and well-being. The research investigates the specific conditions that influence the exposure to the conditions that cause stress and the potential resources that might mitigate their effects on health. Professor Schieman and his team focus particular attention on the ways that job-related demands generate stress in the ways that people navigate the borders between work and family life. Moreover, they explore the impact of personal, social, household, and organizational resources as protective factors in these processes. The findings from this research can inform the public about ways that they can avoid or minimize stressors in these core role domains of daily life. At a broader level, the research findings may inform policy makers about personal and organizational conditions that present risk and/or protective factors for stress in the intersection of work and family life. This project is the first two waves of a national longitudinal study exploring work/family stress.

SSHRC logoExperimenting with Ethnicity: Deliberative Democracy in Canada

Principal Investigator: Erik Schneiderhan
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council


This study explores the ways in which ethnicity and communication rules influence political deliberation in small group interactions. Professor Schneiderhan and his collaborator at Columbia University will stage a number of small group experiments and observe the rules of interaction in staged democratic decision-making. This research will discover how group dynamics and composition affect individual decision-making and help us better understand how politics is practiced by visible minority, white, and multi-ethnic groups. By  detailing how diverse communities both engage with and understand politics, this research will contribute to the continued success of Canada's multi-ethnic democracy.

SSHRC logoThe Use of Race in Municipal Public Safety Strategies in Three New World Cities

Principal Investigator: Luisa Schwartzman
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

This project investigates how ideas about race have informed how city governments have categorized, sorted and understood the city's population, and how these processes of sorting, understanding and categorization were used in the daily management of problems related to public safety (as understood by city officials) such as crime, urban unrest and the use of public spaces. This is part of a broader attempt to understand how racial discourse and categorization have informed policies that lead to the production and reproduction of inequality within the city context, and, even more broadly, how racialized inequality is reproduced in different societies. Taking a comparative-historical approach, this project looks at three cities in particular: Rio de Janeiro, New York and Toronto. this research project improves our knowledge of variations in the use of race as a way of understanding and dealing with everyday management of social relations, assessing variations across space, time and social and national historical contexts.

SSHRC logoThe Social and Political Consequences of Urban Scenes in Canada


Principal Investigator: Dan Silver
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

Local amenities generate distinctive "scenes" characterized by the types of value charged experiences they affirm or deny, such as self-expression, glamour, or local authenticity. This project measure the local scenes across the country and assesses their impact on the economic, social and political fabric of the nation. The project will evaluate differences between various localities, cities and regions across Canada and determine whether people in Canada choose their place of residence based on the available scenes, whether economic growth is fostered by the presence of a particular type of scene and whether particular political allegiances are aligned with particular scenes. 

OPGRC logo2The Intergenerational Transmission of Problem Gambling: A Sociological Approach

Principal Investigator: Lorne Tepperman
Funding Source: Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre


This project examines the children of problem gamblers in order to understand the sociological factors that result in many of them becoming problem gamblers themselves. The project will describe how the interaction between the child and their family environment influences the development of problem gambling. Additionally, it will shift the focus from the genetic and psychological explanations to the dominant social mechanisms that characterize the circumstances under which the intergenerational transmission of problem gambling occurs. This improved understanding of the social processes involved in the transmission of problem gambling will help inform health professionals and the public on the family environment of the children of problem gamblers and the repercussions these conditions have on the child’s risk of developing a gambling problem.

SSHRC logoEvaluating the Extent and Impact of the Triple Revolution on Social Relationships and Social Structure in Communities, at Home and at Work

Principal Investigator: Barry Wellman
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

Social relations have recently undergone a 'triple revolution'. First, the social network revolution has provided the opportunities and stresses for people to reach beyond the world of tight groups. Second, the internet revolution has provided more communication and information power. Third, the mobile revolution has allowed ICTs to become body appendages, affording less constrained access to friends and information, wherever they are. With the help of the triple revolution, members of households are able to act more like individuals in networks and less like members of a solidary family acting as a unit. Structural changes, such as smaller families and the higher percentage of women work mean fewer housebound children and adults and greater needs for coordination using mobile phones and the internet. Family life has sped up. Household members are in frequent contact, but do not get together as often as a group. Communication media help people manage larger more specialized and more diversified sets of relationships. New communication technologies such as Facebook provide not only immediacy of communication, but also opportunities to re-connect with old network ties (such as old high school friends) and ways to maintain existing network ties. The changing social environment is adding to people’s capacity and willingness to exploit more remote relationships. ICTs especially help users to maintain contact with weak ties: friends, relatives, neighbours and workmates with whom people are not close. Networked individuals act in a new environment where the boundaries between public and private life are reconfiguring: with frequent use and widespread diffusion, ICTs and cell phones have not only become key ways in which most people communicate with friends, family and work or school peers, but also pivotal in how people manage and coordinate their complex schedules. This study provides in-depth examinations of people’s social relationships in order to understand how communication media are reconfiguring boundaries: household, work and community.

SSHRC logoNetworks of Knowledge Mobilization and Transfer Among Scholars, Industry and Government

Principal Investigator: Barry Wellman
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

Organizations no longer function as top-down hierarchies, with one person working on one task. Instead, People work in multiple teams with often distant members; their work crosses organizational and disciplinary boundaries. This study will synthesize knowledge about distributed and networked organizations, knowledge innovation networks, and multi-disciplinary/cross-sectoral research networks. We will answer the questions: How does knowledge get mobilized and transferred through interpersonal networks? What are the structural characteristics of the networks that support innovation, knowledge transfer, and research? What are the best practices of designing networks in order to improve the innovation, knowledge transfer, and research processes? Such changes are driven by an economic transformation: developed countries are moving to knowledge-based economies. Knowledge becomes the key to economic growth. Increasingly important are networked structures that enable flexible information exchange as well as interpersonal networks that distribute information resources. Governments devote significant efforts in fostering innovation and knowledge transfer yet these efforts are rarely informed by the understanding of the networked nature of work.

SSHRC logoProfiling Residential Life Histories using Historical Census Data

Principal Investigator: Blair Wheaton
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

This study is developing and demonstrating the implementation of a new instrument designed to capture the essential components of a lifetime residential history. To make this instrument applicable across a range of applications, we are developing explicit coding procedures for residential addresses and an instruction manual for attaching this history to Census information about the neighbourhood of residence from childhood to the present.



CIHR logoInvestigating Neighbourhood Effects on Mental Health

Principal Investigator: Blair Wheaton (Co-PI with Pat O'Campo, St. Michael's Hospital)
Funding Source: Canadian Institutes for Health Research


Surveys of the mental well-being in the last quarter century estimate that 20% to 50% of the population experience at least one major mental health problem over the course of a lifetime. Conceptually, this study expands upon the predominant models of individual-level psychosocial risk  for mental health problems to consider the role of neighbourhood stressors and resources.  We examine whether and how neighborhood factors, acting independently or interacting with individual level factors, can affect the risk of individual mental health problems and appropriate use of mental health services. There is great promise in complementing current clinical approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness with programs that address the social and economic factors contributing to mental disorders. Interventions that improve these negative community characteristics, some of which are currently underway, can improve mental well-being for large numbers of people and can reach those populations who would not readily utilize mental health services, potentially overcoming a huge barrier to current approaches to treating mental disorders. The results of this research will inform the design of community level interventions that specifically focus upon improving the mental health of urban populations.

SSHRC logoState Policies, Market Development and Family Dynamics: A Longitudinal Study of a North China Village

Principal Investigator: Weiguo Zhang
Funding Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

This research assesses the roles of state and market in shaping family relations. In particular, this project will determine how institutional changes at the state and labour market levels have affected gender-specific networks in work and daily life activities, and subsequently the family, in rural China. Within the Chinese context, state initiated economic reforms have changed formal institutional settings and informal networks (e.g., lineage, women's ties to natal kin). These changes have far reaching implications for family transformation including changes to family formation strategies, the investment in sons and daughters, and the welfare of the elderly. The analysis will use a life course approach, favouring event history analysis, and longitudinal effects. the project compares findings now with findings from a 1992/93 study of the same village. The study will shed light on the intersection between market capitalism, state socialism, and patriarchy, and will enhance our understanding of family dynamics within specific social and economic contexts. It will also have important policy implications related to globalization, human rights and gender.

 

Research