Nan Dirk de Graaf - Research

Further information about research projects, publications and teaching.

See Academic Profile page.

Downloadable Publications (.pdf)


Doctoral Students

Research Projects

Societal problems Political SociologyCorruptionSecularizationSocial mobility  | Criminal reproduction 

Societal Problems as Public Bads

Corruption, economic inequality, religious extremism, financial crises, global warming, population ageing, gender inequalities, large-scale migration… Our book “Societal Problems as Public Bads” (Routledge 2019) tackles many of the most pressing problems facing societies today. We demonstrate that many similar social processes lie behind these seemingly disparate problems. The problems can often be traced back to actions that are perfectly rational or well-intended from an individual perspective, but that – taken together – give rise to undesirable societal outcomes.

Employing a multidisciplinary approach, we draw on insights from across the social sciences, including sociology, economics, anthropology, and psychology. We support our arguments with numerous data charts and telling examples from a variety of countries. Throughout the book, students and others who are interested in the societal problems, are introduced to analytical tools that are essential for better understanding the roots of a wide range of societal problems. Moreover, opportunities and challenges in the search for solutions to these problems are discussed.

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

Political Sociology

Spanje, Joost van & N.D. de Graaf. 2018 The Strategy of Parroting the Pariah: How Established Parties Reduce Other Parties' Electoral Support. West European Politics. 41: 1-27.

"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:
(with Giedo Janssen and Geoff Evans 2013). Class voting and left-right party positions: A comparative study of 15 western democracies, 1960-2005. Social Science Research, 42: 376-400.


(with 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.

(with Tim Mueller and Peter 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. 

(with Manfred Te Grotenhuis, M. M. Scholte, and Ben Pelzer. 2015).  The Between and Within Effects of Social Security on Church Attendance in Europe 1980-1998: The Danger of Testing Hypotheses Cross-Nationally. 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: The Relationship between Conviction Trajectories of Fathers and their Sons and Daughters, 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.

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 (Assistant Professor at  University of Waterloo); 21. Dingeman Wiertz (British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer at University College London); 22. Noah Carl (Toby Jackman Newton Trust Research Fellow, St Edmund's College, Cambridge University)

Current PhDs:

22. Ask Foldspang Neve (Nuffield College)

24. Sarah Schneider (Nuffield College)

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