Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)

Research Team

Dr Thijs Bol (University of Amsterdam)

Thijs Bol (1985) is a Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of the University of Amsterdam.

His research focuses on social stratification, education, occupational closure practices and the causes and consequences of income inequality.

Thijs currently works on (1) educational systems (within the PROO project), (2) educational expansion, technological change, and the returns to education, (3) the effects of occupational closure on wages and income inequality in Germany and the United Kingdom (with Kim Weeden ), (4) how occupational closure and social capital work together in the hiring process (with Valentina Di Stasio), (5) the relation between income inequality and risk-taking behavior (with Bram Lancee and Sander Steijn).

For PROO he studies how educational systems cause policy trade-offs.

Thijs graduated cum laude in Sociology at the University of Amsterdam in 2008. In 2013 he finished his dissertation “Why Does Education Pay Off” at the same university, under supervision by Herman van de Werfhorst and Daniela Grunow. During his doctoral research Thijs visited Cornell University in the United States and GESIS research center in Mannheim, Germany.

Dr Valentina Di Stasio (University of Amsterdam)

Valentina Di Stasio (1984) is a Postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of the University of Amsterdam. She is interested in the comparative study of the school-to-work transitions of youth, with a particular focus on the institutional arrangements that structure the interface between education systems and national labour markets. Her research areas include: comparative social stratification, social capital in the labour market, employers’ recruitment and hiring behaviour, higher education systems.

For the PROO project, Valentina will consider three functions of the education system - skill maximization, labour market allocation and socialization into active citizenship – and compare the positioning of countries with regard to several indicators. For all three functions, possible trade-offs between efficiency and equality will be explored.

Valentina is also a Fellow of the College for Interdisciplinary Education Research at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB). In 2013, she completed her doctoral studies at the Amsterdam Institute of Social Science Research (AISSR), and in 2012 was a visiting student at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence. Before starting her PhD training, she graduated cum laude at the University of Amsterdam and was a research assistant at the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies (AIAS). 

Prof. Jaap Dronkers (Maastricht University)

Jaap Dronkers is Professor in international comparative research on educational performance and social inequality at Maastricht University. He was born in Amsterdam in 1945 and studied sociology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

He has been head of Research of Education and Sociology at SISWO (1976–1986), Associate Professor of the Sociology of Education and Empirical Sociology at the Catholic University of Brabant in Tilburg (1986–1990), Chair in Educational Sciences (1990–1999), and Chair in Empirical Sociology (1999–2001) both at the University of Amsterdam.

Prof. Dronkers was visiting scholar at the Max-Planck Institute for Human Development (1998–1999). Between September 2001 and November 2009 he was Professor of Social Stratification and Inequality at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence.

Since 2002 he has been one of the organizers of the European Network for the Sociological and Demographic Study of Divorce. During 2006/2007 he has been Director of the European Forum The Quality of Education and its Relationships with Inequality in European and Other Modern Societies.

In 2009 he was recipient of the Professor Leune Award for his contribution to educational innovation. During the autumn of 2010 he was visiting professor at the Doshisha University in Kyoto (Japan). Since September 2011 he is academic partner of Centraal Planbureau. Since April 2012 he is external research fellow of CReAM of UCL (UK).

He has published on the causes and consequences of unequal educational and occupational attainment, changes in educational opportunities, effect-differences between public and religious schools, the educational and occupational achievement of migrants from different origins and in various countries of destination, the linkages between school and the labour market, the effects of parental divorce on children, cross-national differences in causes of divorce, education of Dutch elites, and European nobility.

He also participates in public debates on topics related to his research.

Dr Louise Elffers (University of Amsterdam)

Louise Elffers is an Assistant Professor in Educational Sciences at the University of Amsterdam, and Lector Vocational Education at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. She obtained her PhD in Educational Sciences from the University of Amsterdam in 2011.

In her research, Louise focuses on organizational characteristics of education and their influence on the school careers of students with various backgrounds and performance levels.

In particular, she studies school careers of students in vocational education, comprising research on student engagement, school success and dropout across the transition from pre-vocational to senior vocational education and from secondary education to higher vocational education in the Netherlands. 

Prof. Sjoerd Karsten (Universiteit van Amsterdam)

Prof. Sjoerd KARSTEN (1949) is Professor of Educational Policy and Organization at the University of Amsterdam and Director of Research of the National Expert Centre on Vocational Education in the Netherlands.

His research centres on pupils at risk, migrant youth and vocational education (VET).

He has published in journals such as Comparative Education Review, Comparative Education, Compare, Journal of Educational Policy and Educational Policy, on policies for disadvantaged pupils, ethnic segregation, and comparative educational policy.

He completed his doctoral studies at the Universiteit Leiden in Empirical Sociology with special reference to Educational Sociology and Methodology.

He has previously held academic positions at the Universiteit Leiden, and as visiting professor at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand.

He has been a guest speaker at various institutions and seminars in Europe, USA and Asia (e.g. OECD, EU and several international Think Tanks). In the past, he has served as an advisor to the Dutch Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the National Education Council and the National Inspectorate and has been an external expert for the European Union.

He is currently a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Dutch Minister of Integration. He sits in the editorial board of several scientific journals. He conducted several international projects (financed by the EU, international foundations and Dutch authorities).

He has published about ten books, forty reports, and over 150 articles and book chapters.

Roxanne Korthals MA (Maastricht University)

Roxanne Korthals is a PhD student at the Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA) Maastricht University.

She obtained a master in Economics from the University of Amsterdam in 2010 and a research master in Economics from the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, in 2011.

Her current research focusses on education and starts with an analysis of educational achievement using the PISA 2009 data.

Her research interest are economics of education, labour economics and the effect of education and the labour market on economic growth.

dr. Mark Levels (Maastricht University)

Mark Levels (1977) is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Research Centre for Education and the Labor Market (ROA) of Maastricht University’s School of Business and Economics, and a Fellow of the German College of Interdisciplinary Education Research (CIDER).

Mark’s broad research interests include the extent to which government institutions in liberal democracies can utilize laws, policies and institutional arrangements to effectively influence individuals’ behavior, actions and decision-making in such a way that various societal problems can be prevented or solved.

His dissertation focused on explaining the extent to which laws can affect fertility-related decision-making.

For PROO, he works on a project that studies the extent to which governments can best design their countries’ educational systems to ensure that school-leavers and graduates meet the requirements of the labor markets in which they seek to participate.

After performing voluntary military service, Mark studied sociology at the Radboud University Nijmegen and, as a visiting student, at the European University Institute in Fiesole, Italy.

He graduated cum laude from Radboud University’s sociology program in 2006, with a minor in research methods and techniques (MSc, Radboud University Nijmegen).

Mark conducted research for his Ph.D. in the Social Sciences (2011) at the Interuniversity Centre for Social Science Theory and Methodology (ICS) in Nijmegen and Nuffield College of the University of Oxford, England.

Before starting at Maastricht University, Mark served as assistant professor at the Sociology Department of Radboud University Nijmegen.

Prof. Herman G. van de Werfhorst (University of Amsterdam)

Herman van de Werfhorst is Professor of Sociology at the University of Amsterdam, and director of the Amsterdam Centre for Inequality Studies (AMCIS, which is a collaborative research centre of the University of Amsterdam and FreeUniversity Amsterdam, and is sponsored by a Research Focal Point of the Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences of UvA.

He obtained his PhD at the University of Nijmegen in 2001. From 2000-2002 he was a Prize Research Fellow at Nuffield College, University of Oxford.

Since 2002 he has been teaching Sociology at the department of Sociology and Anthropology of the University of Amsterdam.

Herman is actively involved in several research projects. The three largest projects are the following.

First, he coordinates a research team that studies the influence of institutions on the way education is used for selection and allocation processes in labour markets, partly subsidized by a personal VIDI grant from the Netherlands' Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).

Second, Herman is the Principal Investigator of a Research Programme Grant by the Netherlands' Organisation for Scientific Research, Programme Council for Education Research (NWO-PROO), entitled ' Educational systems and four central functions of education'.

Finally, Herman is involved in the EU FP7 project GINI (Growing Inequalities' Impacts), on the social, cultural and political impacts of (changing) inequalities in Europe. Herman's research interests include the sociology of education, social stratification and mobility, labour market sociology, and quantitative methodology and statistics.

Prof. Rolf van der Velden (Maastricht University)

Rolf van der Velden (1955) is professor at Maastricht University and program director Education and Occupational Career at the Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA). He is fellow of the Interuniversity Center for Educational Research (ICO). He supervised several (inter)national studies on the transition from school to work. He recently coordinated the international REFLEX project ( and was advisor on the related HEGESCO project (

Currently he is one of the coordinators in the PIAAC project ( He is member of several research associations in the field of social stratification, education and labour market. In 1983 he finished his study sociology at the University of Groningen.

From 1983 till 1990 he worked at the Institute for Educational Research in Groningen, where he held the position of Head of the Division of Labour Market Research. In 1991 he finished his Ph.D. thesis on 'Social Background and School-success'.

He has published on many studies in the field of education, training and labour market.

His current research interests include international comparisons in the transition from school to work, competence development during education, the long term effects of education on occupational careers, overeducation and skills mismatches and the effect of generic and specific competences on labour market outcomes.

Prof. Dinand Webbink (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Dinand Webbink is professor of Policy Evaluation at the Erasmus School of Economics of the University of Rotterdam.

He received his PHD in Economics at the University of Amsterdam in 1999.

Before joining the Erasmus University he worked at the Dutch Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) and the Dutch Educational Council.

His main area of research is economics of education but he is also interested in other fields like labor, health, social policy or crime.

His research focuses on identifying the causal effects of interventions or policies.

Jacqueline Witschge MA (University of Amsterdam)

Jacqueline Witschge is a PhD candidate at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR).

She holds a Bachelor in ‘Social Sciences and Humanities’ (University College Maastricht, Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara) and a Master of Science degree in Sociology (University of Amsterdam).

The ‘central function of education’ that her PhD project is concerned with is the socialization of students into active citizenship.

In particular her research deals with the question if educational systems, including the organization of civic education, affect the distribution of civic competences across socioeconomic groups.

Her research interests include: sociology of education; social stratification and mobility; civic engagement and political socialization.

Published by  AISSR

25 September 2015