Research Projects

Browse the projects that our researchers are involved in.

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Welfare and Social Distance: Kate Summers

Welfare at a (Social) Distance is a major national research project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to COVID-19.

This project involves surveying and interviewing claimants and resesarching eco-systems of support. 7,000 new and existing benefit claimants are surveyed online at pivotal moments during the pandemic. Across three waves of data collection, the researchers are exploring claimant experiences, attitudes and outcomes to consider how the benefits system can best support those worst affected by COVID-19.

The researchers are also conducting qualitative longitudinal research with 80 claimants, interviewing them twice during the pandemic. The first wave of fieldwork began in June 2020, with claimants revisited in 2021. The project is capturing a diversity of experiences and circumstances to examine how the benefits system affects the trajectories of claimants when it comes to work, household finances and well-being.

Additionally, the researchers will conduct 8-12 interviews with people providing this support (e.g. local authorities, the third sector, employment support providers and others) in each of the case study areas (Leeds, Newham, Salford and Thanet).


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The court reform programme and the response to the pandemic: Jon Jackson

Funded by the Nuffield Foundation and led by Professor Naomi Creutzfeldt at the University of Westminster, this study examines the effect of rapid digitalization on the delivery of justice in the areas of housing and special educational needs and disability. Covid-19 has forced the justice system, where possible, to go digital at a rapid pace. By empirically understanding areas that work well and those that need improvement, there is a huge opportunity to draw positive (potentially radical) lessons from this crisis. What lessons about digitalization and pathways to justice can be learned? How can trust in justice – the belief that justice system is fair, effective and open to all – be maintained? We seek to (1) better understand the effect of rapid digitalization on the advice and redress systems as well as its users; (2) identify the effects on access for marginalized groups; and (3) explore how trust can be built and sustained in two specific parts of a justice system affected by the pandemic.        


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Developing Latent Hierarchical Network Models for Cross-Cultural Comparisons of Social and Economic Inequality:  Eleanor Power

This project will develop network models that fully exploit the various facets of the information typically contained in social network datasets. In doing this, the researchers depart from prevalent models in contemporary social network analysis that treat an observed network data set as representing the "true" network. Instead, they assume that the true network is "latent" and, therefore not empirically observed, and further frame the observed network data as an imperfect measurement of what they are modelling. In proposing this probabilistic framework, they will first account for the various individual-level biases that shape who people name (and who they do not). They will then extend their model to allow for nodes (here, people) to form into hierarchically nested groups (for example, households) and thus capture units at the different levels that are present in the system. Finally, they will expand this model to account for changes over time of both the individual units at different levels of the hierarchy and their relationships, thus capturing relevant time evolution.

The grant has been awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the project is grounded in the analytical needs of the "ENDOW project," a US National Science Foundation-funded project. The models that will be developed here will help them understand (and potentially then rectify) some of the drivers of social and economic inequality around the world.


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COVID-19 and the benefits system: Kate Summers

This research will seek to provide rapid large-scale evidence for policymakers on how the working-age social security system responds to and copes with COVID-19 in the next 18 months, including how support has been impacted by the need for social distancing. This will include an online survey of 8,000 new and existing benefit claimants, in-depth interviews with around 80 people who will share experiences over time, and case studies on support providers in Leeds, Newham, Salford and Thanet. This research has been awarded a grant of £618,000.

The grant has been awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of the COVID-19 response from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Kate is a co-investigator alongside colleagues from the University of LeedsUniversity of Salford and University of Kent.


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ENDOW:  Eleanor Power

This project is a cross-cultural, comparative and longitudinal study of social and economic inequality, co-directed by Eleanor Power. Called by the acronym “ENDOW” (Economic Networks and the Dynamics Of Wealth (Inequality)) and funded by the US National Science Foundation, this project has enlisted anthropologists working in over thirty countries around the world to gather comparable social network data in over forty communities.

The ENDOW project is aimed at investigating the economic consequences of social network structure, both for individuals and for the larger communities they comprise. This is a fundamentally comparative project, as we expect that the variation we observe in the structure of social networks will help to explain some of the cross-cultural variation in wealth inequality. The unique data gathered by the ENDOW team members will allow for fruitful investigations into the social and economic dynamics of these communities.


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Police in schools: A national police youth engagement project. Jon Jackson and Chris Pósch

Police officers have been involved in delivering personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) lessons in some of the schools and regions of England on topics such as drugs, or online safety education. But it is unknown what impact this has on the students’ knowledge and perception of the issues, the police, and the justice system in general.

This project is a clustered-block randomized controlled trial to estimate the causal effect of having a police officer giving a lesson on drugs and policing, compared to either a teacher delivering the same content, or there being no lesson at all. Jon and Chris also assess whether having an officer in the classroom talk about the harm of drugs and the realities of policing is an important moment of legal socialisation among young people, particularly because the officer is meeting them in their space to present sessions designed to engage and encourage discussion. To estimate the causal effect at both the individual and aggregate level, Jon and Chris use a clustered-block-randomized design and a three-wave panel with children from hundreds of schools across England. Their robust design permits multiple ways of analysing the data, to answer this question, including the assessment of matched school trios, multi-level modelling, spill over effects, and many others.


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The Emergence of Inequality in Social Groups. Milena Tsvetkova

From small organisations to entire nations and society at large, socio economic inequality is one of the most significant problems facing the world today. Funded by the Volkswagen Foundationthis four-year project will approach the problem of inequality from a new perspective and with new computational social science methods. An interdisciplinary team of sociologists, computer scientists, and physicists will develop and conduct large-scale controlled experiments online. 

This method will allow the construction of “artificial societies” comprising dozens of individuals who interact over days or weeks. Manipulating the structure of these multiple parallel worlds will help identify the structural conditions that give rise to inequality and inform policy and managerial interventions that reduce it.

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Community-led recovery after the Grenfell Tower fire. Flora Cornish

How can a community produce positive change as part of its post-disaster recovery? And can university-community collaborations contribute to empowering locally-owned recovery stories? The Grenfell Tower fire, in June 2017, devastated a West London community. It is widely accepted that community groups and individuals took leadership of the response to help their neighbours in the first hours, days, and months of uncertainty as the state assessed matters, apologised, set up processes, progressively lost local legitimacy, preserved core functions and insulated itself from damage. The ramifications of that situation are still unfolding.

Using a model of community-engaged research, Flora is currently researching community authority relations in the aftermath of the disaster through a 2-year ethnography and interview study, and an experiment in ‘public social history’, working collaboratively to produce locally-authored stories of recovery. Grounded in respect for the community’s role in producing its own recovery, the project aims to contribute to understandings of community resilience for future disaster responders, and to academic understandings of mechanisms of social change and stasis. 

The project has begun as a knowledge-exchange project, marshalling materials with which to build accounts of the process of recovery from different points of view, collaborating with community members on their own stories of recovery, as a foundation for developing academic versions. The project also enables knowledge exchange with emergency management professionals and policy makers in the interest of improving the environment for community-led disaster response and recovery. It is funded by a grant from LSE Knowledge Exchange and Impact.