Nan Dirk de Graaf - Research

Further information about research projects, publications and teaching.

See Academic Profile page.

Research Projects

Political Sociology

​Spanje, Joost van & N.D. de Graaf. forthcoming and online available. The Strategy of Parroting the Pariah: How Established Parties Reduce Other Parties' Electoral Support. West European Politics

"Political Choice Matters: Explaining the strength of class and religious cleavages in cross-national perspective" (together with Geoffrey Evans) March 2013. Oxford University Press.

Political Choice Matters investigates the role of the ideological positions adopted by political parties in shaping the extent of class and religious voting in contemporary democracies. Combining overtime, cross-national data and multi-level research designs it demonstrates that the programmatic positions of parties can provide voters with choice sets that accentuate or diminish the strength of political cleavages. It also simultaneously tests alternative, ‘bottom up’, approaches that attribute changes in class and religious voting to processes of individualisation associated with socio-economic development and secularization. There are detailed case studies of eleven European and Anglo-democracies examining, mostly, election studies ranging from the post-war period until the early part of the 21st century, which are augmented by a pooled cross-national and overtime analysis of 15 Western democracies using a unique dataset of 188 national pooled surveys.

This project proposes a combined over time and cross-national research design that enables the simultaneous study of contextual factors that vary through time and space and which can provide explanations of why and when social bases of whatever sort underlie political preferences. The key question therefore is how are political cleavages formed and how do they change?

See also:
Janssen, G. Evans, G & De Graaf N.D. 2013. Class voting and left-right party positions: A comparative study of 15 western democracies, 1960-2005. Social Science Research, 42: 376-400.


Anthony Heath and Lindsay Richards 2016. Explaining Corruption in the Developed World: The Potential of Sociological Approaches. Annual Review of Sociology. 42: 51-79.


In the last three decades of the twentieth century religion has been back on the societal stage. Examples can be found all over the world and apply to various religious groups. These developments attracted not only attention from social scientists. In the two decennia following after World War II the general impression was that the secularization process was irreversible in industrial societies and that developing countries would show a similar trend later. However, the above mentioned religious revival and especially the relative high levels of religious participation in the United States caused doubts on the secularization thesis. What followed was a renaissance of theorizing in the sociology of religion. This project contains various sub-projects and intends to tests various implications from the secularization theory and its rival the ‘supply-side’ theory. Interestingly, the supply side approach is sometimes not incompatible with some important hypotheses implied by the secularization paradigm.

N.D. de Graaf (2013) Secularization: Theoretical Controversies Generating Empirical Research. in Handbook of Rational Choice Social Research, R. Wittek, V. Nee, and Tom Snijders (eds.), Stanford University Press, pp. 322-354.

Mueller, N.D. de Graaf and P.Schmidt (2014) Which Societies Provide a Strong Religious Sopcialization Context? Explanations Beyond the Effects of National Religiosity. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 53: 739-759.

Te Grotenhuis, M. M. Scholte, N.D. de Graaf and B. Pelzer. 2015,  The Between and Within Effects of Social Security on Church Attendance in Europe 1980-1998: The Danger of Testing Hypotheses Cross- Nationaly. European Sociological Review. 31: 643-654.

Social mobility and health/happiness

(with Emma Zang 2016) Frustrated Achievers or Satisfied Losers? Inter- and Intra-generational Social Mobility and Happiness in China. Sociological Science. 3: 779-800.

(with Christiaan Monden 2012) The importance of father’s and own education for selfassessed Health across Europe: an East–West divide? Sociology of Health and Illness. 35: 977-992. 

Criminal reproduction: the mutual influences of criminal careers of family members

Do children of recidivists have a higher chance to become an offender as well? To what extent do siblings resemble and influence each others criminal careers? This project aims to examine the influence of criminal careers of parents and siblings on the development of individual criminal careers. Next to the offending of family members of a person, we will investigate to what extent important life events of this person and his/her family-members affect his/her criminal career.
We will use a multiple data-source strategy in order to test our hypotheses. The data are quantitative and qualitative, consist of 5,000 families, cover a period of 60 years and are obtained from legal, municipal and military files.

- (with Marieke van de Rakt and Paul Nieuwbeerta (2008). Like Father, Like Son, British Journal of Criminology. 48: 538-556.
- (with Marieke van de Rakt, Paul Nieuwbeerta and Stijn Ruiter (2010) When Does the Apple Fall from the Tree: Dynamic Theories Predicting Intergenerational Transmission of Crime. Journal of Quantitative Criminology. 26: 371-389.

Societal Problems as Public Bads

Together with Dingeman Wiertz and Noah Carl I am working on a book that focusses on pressing societal problems. 

 Societal problems, interpreted as public bads, are the unintended macro-level consequences of numerous small acts at the micro level. The individuals who display this micro behaviour usually do not have the intention to cause any societal problems. Indeed, the true origin of these problems generally does not lie in individuals’ intentions for their actions, but in the aggregation of all these individual actions. This can be illustrated by looking at environmental problems. Garbage deposits and overfishing in the oceans degrade the environment. If one were to ask the individuals who are involved in this behaviour whether it is really their aim to destroy the environment, one would undoubtedly get a negative reply. Entrepreneurs want to produce goods and get rid of their industrial by-products. Fishers want to catch fish. In other words, individual actors do not want to cause societal disasters. The crux, however, is that the aggregation of many individual actions motivated by harmless intentions can result in macro effects that represent a societal problem.

An earlier book on general societal problems has been published in Dutch (2005, second print 2009) Maatschappelijke Problemen: Beschrijvingen en Verklaringen. Boom. 

Doctoral Students

Former PhDs:

1.Paul Nieuwbeerta (Full Professor, Leiden University); 2. Michel van Berkel (researcher and consultant, Nijmegen); 3. Ariana Need (Full Professor, Twente University); 4. Wilma Smeenk (Lecturer /researcher, Police Academy Appeldoorn); 5. Herman van de Werfhorst (Full Professor, Amsterdam University); 6. Johan van Wilsem (Associate Professor Leiden University); 7. Christiaan Monden (Professorial Fellow, Oxford University); 8. Rene Bekkers (Professor, Free University of Amsterdam); 9. Jannes de Vries (Researcher at Statistics Netherlands); 10. Ayse Guveli (Lecturer Essex); 11. Stijn Ruiter (Professor, Utrecht University and Associate Professor, NSCR Amsterdam); 12. Eva Jaspers (Assistant Professor, Utrecht University); 13. Jochem Tolsma (Associate Professor, Nijmegen University); 14. Nicole Tieben (Post-doc, Mannheim); 15. Olav Aarts (Researcher at TNO, Groningen); 16. Marieke van de Rakt (Lecturer, Den Bosch), 17. Giedo Jansen (Assistant Professor, University of Twente); 18. Tim Mueller (Postdoctoral Researcher at Berlin Institue for Integration and Migration Research at the HU Berlin); 19. Matthew Bennett (Lecturer in Social Policy, University of Birmingham); 20. Sarah Wilkins Laflamme (Post-Doc at University of Quebec, Montreal); 21. Dingeman Wiertz (PPRF Nuffield College, Oxford)

Current PhDs:

22. Ask Foldspang Neve (Nuffield College)
23. Noah Carl (Nuffield College)
24. Luofei Zhan (Saint Anthony)
25. Fijnanda van Klingeren (Nuffield College)

Possible Research Topics for Students

Educational attainment
Social mobility and life chances (e.g. health, social and cultural participation, attitudes)
Parental cultural resources and educational attainment
Decline of religiosity?
International comparative research on religiosity/religion
Pro-social behaviour