Research Group

Kinship Inequalities

At a Glance Projects Publications Team

Detailed Description


Kinship is a fundamental and universal form of social structure. All humans belong to kinship structures in the same way that all humans are born and die. Yet, the degree to which individuals benefit from these structures varies greatly across subgroups and over age and time.

The term “kinship inequalities” refers to differences in kin presence, availability, and resources for individuals. These disparities arise from a range of factors, including demographic dynamics, socioeconomic inequalities, and societal norms. For example, longer lifespans allow grandparents to spend more lifetime with their grandchildren. This is potentially a positive development for grandchildren, grandparents, and parents, who benefit from child care support. Yet, in practice these gains are unequally distributed among subgroups with different legacies of mortality, fertility, and migration.

The Research Group on Kinship Inequalities, funded by the Max Planck Society, conducts research to advance the subfield of kinship demography, combining demographic modeling with empirical data analysis. The group studies how inequalities in kinship among persons and groups determine individual outcomes and ultimately shape the structure of human societies.

The group has three main objectives:

  1. To study kinship inequalities by combining classic demographic approaches with new data, methods, and technologies.
  2. To improve our understanding of population dynamics by leveraging insights from kinship demography.
  3. To contribute to the training of scholars in areas related to kinship demography.

The study of kinship has a long tradition in demography, often in the context of analytical family demography. Yet, applying a “kinship lens” to broader social phenomena will produce novel insights. The group conducts research on four main substantive areas: (i) kin availability, intergenerational overlap, and transfers; (ii) the experience of kin loss and bereavement; (iii) the effects of demographic change on family structures; and (iv) the implications of these processes for families and societies. These are pressing topics as families become increasingly diverse and complex, extending beyond biological kin and across national borders.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.