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Status maintenance in the ‘social middle’: intergenerational stability in occupational fields of the middle class

The research project investigates intergenerational strategies of status maintenance in three occupational fields of the middle class. Based on family interviews, different mechanisms of status reproduction are elaborated from an intergenerational perspective.

The project studies strategies and mechanisms of how the middle class maintains their intergenerational status within specific occupational fields. Numerous studies on social equality have already demonstrated that the middle class perceives itself as threatened by social insecurity and dynamics of social crisis.

The project firstly investigates the conditions of successful status maintenance. By which means and in what ways do families succeed to maintain their social status across several generations and thus simultaneously reproduce structures of social inequality.

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Secondly, we put a special focus on the intergenerational relations: Under which conditions are which kind of mentalities, values, dispositions, and social positioning passed on or modified across generations in order to maintain the social status? The aim is to reconstruct the subjective perception of families an the - more or less – conscious, consensual or conflicting mechanisms which remain stable or change when comparing three generations across time.

Such mechanisms may go well beyond the important occupation-specific behavioral patterns such as investing into education. Thirdly, the project compares three typical occupational fields of the middle class: professions in (quasi-)government institutions, middle-class craftsmanship, and qualified employees in the technical field.

We thus combine sociological perspectives on social inequality and on work and professions and investigate occupational cultures as a central factor in families’ strategy of status maintenance. A more general inquiry on the making of societies is related to this: Are there occupation-specific mechanisms of status maintenance and which role to those occupation play with regard to the internal, both vertical and horizontal differentiation of the middle class?

Our research methods involve family interviews with members of three generations. Persons of the middle generations who work in one of the three professional fields named above are the anchor for recruiting further family members. This innovative approach offers the opportunity to analyze the collective production and ways of communication in families and directly relate them to the perspective of the individual. The sampling and data collection is based on the Grounded Theory Methodology. The empirical analyzes aims at developing a typology of cross-generational strategies of status maintenance.

Project Team


Prof. Dr. Nicole Burzan, TU Dort­mund

Prof. Dr. Berthold Vogel, SOFI Göttingen


Dr. Miriam Schad, TU Dort­mund

Dr. Andrea Hense, SOFI Göttingen


Hense, A. (forthcoming): Combining Graphic Elicitation Methods and Narrative Family Interviews in an Embedded Qualitative Multimethod Design, In: Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, Special Issue zum Thema “Mixed Methods and Multimethod Social Research – Current Applications and Future Directions”.

Schad, M./ Hense, A. (forthcoming): Covid-19’s effects on strong and weak ties in middle-class families. Insights from intergenerational qualitative longitudinal data, Soziale Welt, SozW, 74 (1) 2023, 29 – 52

Hense, A./ Schad,M. (2022): Intergenerationale Genese von Mentalitäten: Ein relationaler und längsschnittlicher Forschungsansatz der Bewusstseinsforschung. Arbeits- und Industriesoziologische Studien 15(1), S. 12-25. [available online]

Hense, A./Schad, M. (2021): Intergenerationaler Statuserhalt und berufsfeldspezifische Bildungsaneignung, In: Forum Erwachsenenbildung, 54. Jg., Heft 1/2021, S. 35-38.

Burzan, N. (2020): Kontinuitäten und Diskontinuitäten. Methodische Reflexion zeitsoziologischer Analysen in Mehr-Generationen-Familieninterviews [31 Absätze]. In: Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research 2020, 21(2), Art. 2 [available online] (also in english: Continuities and Discontinuities. A Methodological Reflection on Sociological Analyses of Time in Multigenerational Family Interviews. [available online in English]).

Burzan, N./ Kohrs, S./ Schad, M. (2019): Verunsicherung in den Mittelschichten? Konzeptionelle und methodische Erwägungen sowie empirische Befunde zur aktuellen Ent­wick­lung in Deu­tsch­­land. In:, Vol. 1/2019 („Erosion der Mittelschicht?“), Artikel 1.3. [available online]

Hense, A./ Schad, M. (2019): Sampling von Familien in der Mittelschicht. In Nicole Burzan (Hrsg.), Komplexe Dynamiken globaler und lokaler Ent­wick­lungen. Verhandlungen des 39. Kongresses der Deut­schen Ge­sell­schaft für So­zio­lo­gie in Göttingen 2018. [available online]

Schad, M./ Burzan, N. (2018): Von Generation zu Generation. Strategien des Statuserhalts im Kontext von Familien- und Berufsmentalitäten in der Mittelschicht. In: Schöneck, Nadine; Ritter, Sabine (Hg.): Die Mitte als Kampfzone. Wertorientierungen und Abgrenzungspraktiken der Mittelschichten. Bielefeld: transcript. S. 109‒123.

Schad, M./ Burzan, N. (2018): Intergenerationale Statusstabilisierung in der Mittelschicht – eine exemplarische Analyse zweier Unternehmensfamilien. In: WestEnd Neue Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, 1/2018, S. 99-108.

Burzan, N. (2017): Zur intergenerationalen Stabilisierung der Zugehörigkeit zur Mittelschicht. Befunde aus ei­nem Familieninterview und Schlussfolgerungen für soziologische Per­spek­tiven auf soziale Un­gleich­heit, In: Stephan Lessenich (Hg.) 2017: Geschlossene Gesellschaften. Verhandlungen des 38. Kongresses der Deut­schen Ge­sell­schaft für So­zio­lo­gie in Bamberg 2016.

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Location & approach

The campus of TU Dort­mund University is located close to interstate junction Dort­mund West, where the Sauerlandlinie A 45 (Frankfurt-Dort­mund) crosses the Ruhrschnellweg B 1 / A 40. The best interstate exit to take from A 45 is "Dort­mund-Eichlinghofen" (closer to Campus Süd), and from B 1 / A 40 "Dort­mund-Dorstfeld" (closer to Campus Nord). Signs for the uni­ver­si­ty are located at both exits. Also, there is a new exit before you pass over the B 1-bridge leading into Dort­mund.

To get from Campus Nord to Campus Süd by car, there is the connection via Vogelpothsweg/Baroper Straße. We recommend you leave your car on one of the parking lots at Campus Nord and use the H-Bahn (suspended monorail system), which conveniently connects the two campuses.

TU Dort­mund University has its own train station ("Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät"). From there, suburban trains (S-Bahn) leave for Dort­mund main station ("Dort­mund Hauptbahnhof") and Düsseldorf main station via the "Düsseldorf Airport Train Station" (take S-Bahn number 1, which leaves every 20 or 30 minutes). The uni­ver­si­ty is easily reached from Bochum, Essen, Mülheim an der Ruhr and Duisburg.

You can also take the bus or subway train from Dort­mund city to the uni­ver­si­ty: From Dort­mund main station, you can take any train bound for the Station "Stadtgarten", usually lines U41, U45, U 47 and U49. At "Stadtgarten" you switch trains and get on line U42 towards "Hombruch". Look out for the Station "An der Palmweide". From the bus stop just across the road, busses bound for TU Dort­mund University leave every ten minutes (445, 447 and 462). Another option is to take the subway routes U41, U45, U47 and U49 from Dort­mund main station to the stop "Dort­mund Kampstraße". From there, take U43 or U44 to the stop "Dort­mund Wittener Straße". Switch to bus line 447 and get off at "Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S".

The AirportExpress is a fast and convenient means of transport from Dort­mund Airport (DTM) to Dort­mund Central Station, taking you there in little more than 20 minutes. From Dort­mund Central Station, you can continue to the university campus by interurban railway (S-Bahn). A larger range of international flight connections is offered at Düsseldorf Airport (DUS), which is about 60 kilometres away and can be directly reached by S-Bahn from the university station.

The H-Bahn is one of the hallmarks of TU Dort­mund University. There are two stations on Campus Nord. One ("Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S") is directly located at the suburban train stop, which connects the uni­ver­si­ty directly with the city of Dort­mund and the rest of the Ruhr Area. Also from this station, there are connections to the "Technologiepark" and (via Campus Süd) Eichlinghofen. The other station is located at the dining hall at Campus Nord and offers a direct connection to Campus Süd every five minutes.

The facilities of TU Dort­mund University are spread over two campuses, the larger Campus North and the smaller Campus South. Additionally, some areas of the university are located in the adjacent "Technologiepark".

Site Map of TU Dort­mund University (Second Page in English).