Research topics

Research at Interface Demography is aimed at enhancing scientific understanding on the determinants and consequences of population change.
Our work concentrates around five major research areas. The first three areas (health and mortality, fertility and households and migration) are typical substantive demographic topics. The theoretical knowledge generated in these areas is used to feed the topic of population dynamics and urbanisation. A last area of research is transversally related to the four previous topics and covers the development of research infrastructure through data collection and data management. The major demographic challenges currently witnessed in our society delineate the central research lines and questions within these five research areas.

The spectacular progress in health and life expectancy over the last two centuries and the related consequences of population ageing are topic of study in this research line. Inequity constitutes a major point of attention. The research in this field focuses on (a) the consequences and dynamics of population ageing, (b) health and mortality inequalities in Belgium and (c) the social mechanisms behind these inequalities. Our research on inequalities in health and mortality is strongly embedded in international comparative research at the European level. The integration of the former VUB Medical Sociology Department (MESO) into Interface Demography adds critical mass to this research line.

Migration and integration have always been a core component of the work at ID. In addition, ID is increasingly examining other forms of diversity from an intersectional perspective, such as gender, class, sexuality, family composition, disability and age. Strategic research topics on migration and discrimination are currently:

(a) the patterns, causes and consequences of discrimination on the labour- and housing markets and during daily interactions (so called ‘daily racism/sexism’). For this topic, we often use field experimental techniques, such as correspondence tests or mystery shopping.
(b) the micro-, meso- and macro-level determinants of social mobility among ethnic minority groups (e.g. middle class formation, intergenerational mobility or ethnic entrepreneurship).
(c) health inequalities between different intersectional groups (e.g. ethnic, gender and age).
(d) the residential segregation patterns of different intersectional groups, with a special focus on Brussels Capital Region in Belgium

Pooling knowledge from the three previous research fields, this topic covers global and regional population dynamics. Research within this area addresses aspects such as population growth (decline), internal migration, urbanisation and suburbanisation. We make use of linked census and population register data and of methodological developments such as the LIPRO household projections. Results are often policy oriented; research for governmental departments (finance, economics, education) and contributions to population projections (Statistics Belgium, Federal Planning Bureau) are typical output. Special attention is given to the demographic development of the Brussels Capital Region and its periphery. The applied research on Brussels undoubtedly nourishes fundamental research, as all crucial demographic challenges are coming together in Brussels.

Fundamental research at ID is largely empirically driven; it is based on surveys and the secondary use of large socio-demographic databases. As such, data management makes up the strategic technical part of any research plan at ID. Data development and management generates tremendous research opportunities. In the group, the development of a large data infrastructure is therefore also a research topic an sich.

In collaboration with Statistics Belgium, ID has disclosed and documented several rounds of census files and administrative data. The combination of census and register data has resulted in several new applications with a unique research potential (National Databank Mortality, Migration Databank). ID also took the lead in setting up a series of large surveys (four large surveys among Turkish and Moroccan men and women, the Generation and Gender Survey, the Divorce in Flanders Survey) and making the data available to the research community. The research group has contributed actively to the construction of several databases on the regional and national level (data on education, household dwellings, longitudinal health monitoring, administrative census) and has often been consulted for the development of databases on national and international level (ESFRI, GSF of the OECD).

Database projects