Research projects

This page lists the research projects I have been directly involved with as a researcher or as principal investigator. Please drop me a line if you want more information on any of these projects. Published results can be found in my publication list.

Click here if you want to know more about my PhD dissertation.

On-going research projects

An Ancestor’s tale: 200 years of wealth inequality, persistence, and redistribution

Social positions of children are not fully explained by talents and effort, but also by the social position of parents, grandparents, and even earlier generations. The role of income and education in explaining patterns of social mobility has often been studied, but those factors no longer seem able to sufficiently explain the remarkably low level of intergenerational social mobility attested by recent studies. The role of wealth has too often been neglected in this regard. In this project we address this issue from a historical perspective, while at the same time applying the results to policymaking today. This consortium will (1) reconstruct patterns of wealth and intergenerational wealth transmission over a period of 200 years in Belgium; (2) test the validity of potential mechanisms explaining the reproduction of wealth inequality; and (3) examine how public opinion, redistributive policies and wealth inequality are interlinked both in historical perspective and today.

Period: 01/01/2023-31/12/2026
Funding agency: iBOF

Data-infrastructuur en indicatoren voor snelle monitoring van sociale en arbeidsmarktontwikkelingen in België (BE-FAST)

In this project we will develop a socio-economic monitoring toolbox (monitoring of vulnerable groups in society) that will guide future policymaking and support academic research.

Period: 01/12/2022 – 30/11/2024
Funding agency: Federaal Wetenschapsbeleid (Belpso) – Brain

Automating Social Assistance (ASA)

In the welfare state, decisions are increasingly being automated. In this project, we examine the extent to which automation of social assistance benefits leads to better outcomes for the most vulnerable clients. We examine whether, and under what conditions, automated decision-making leads to more equal, accurate, and transparent decisions regarding the social assistance benefit compared to procedures used today. We evaluate existing automated processes, develop new automated applications that can improve the social assistance benefit application process, and examine how automated processes change the behavior and decisions of professionals and to what extent it affects their ability to engage responsively with clients. In collaboration with relevant partners, we develop a valorization strategy that will greatly improve the social assistance benefit application process in Belgium and abroad.

Period: 1/11/2022 – 31/10/2026
Funding agency: KU Leuven Special Research Fund

Risks, Resources and Inequalities: Increasing Resilience in European Families (rEUsilience)

The problem that rEUsilience tackles is of lack of adaptive capacities or resilience in some families. The context is of fast-paced changes in labour markets to which families are key responsive mechanisms, cushioning potentially negative impacts and enabling/disabling risk-taking. But some families cannot respond. The project answers 2 research questions: What challenges and difficulties are created or exacerbated for families by labour markets in the ‘new world of work’ and how do families try to overcome them? How do policies contribute to family resilience especially in terms of their inclusiveness, flexibility and complementarity? To answer these questions rEUsilience looks at what different families actually do in situations calling for adaptiveness (e.g. need to change labour supply, need to engage in training) and places this in a social and policy context through both pan-European analyses of existing data and new focus group research in 6 different countries (BE, ES, HR, PL, SE, UK). The project will identify the level of risk and socio-economic insecurity faced by families across Europe, their relative capacity to absorb socio-economic shocks and the role of policy.

Period: 1/09/2022 – 31/08/2025
Funding agency: European Commission – Horizon Europe

Basic Income in Belgium (BaBel): stress-testing basic income in the digital era

The BaBel project has several objectives. First, it aims to investigate the actual labour supply effects of basic income (BI). To this end, a quasi-experimental approach is applied, where we use administrative data to estimate the labor supply effects of BI based on what comes closest to a real basic income situation: the Belgian Win-for-Life lottery. Second, to estimate the potential effects of BI and its different variants, an extensive microsimulation exercise will be conducted to estimate the first-order income distribution and budgetary effects of a range of BI proposals and their effect on labor incentives in Belgium. Third, by conducting vignette experiments, the project will gain a deeper understanding of public support for the implementation of a range of basic income propositions in Belgium, and whether and to what extent public support for different basic income propositions depends on their outcomes, financing, and implementation details. Fourth, the BABEL project will pay due attention to the on-the-ground implementation and technical and administrative feasibility of a selection of basic income policy proposals, and will assess the extent to which political parties and social partners as gatekeepers in the Belgian welfare state are willing to support the implementation of these schemes. Finally, the project will present a blueprint of pathways for basic income proposals that (1) are likely to receive sufficient support from the general public and social partners; (2) lead to improved social protection outcomes and work incentives; and (3) can inspire viable welfare reform in Belgium.

Period: 15/03/2021 – 15/03/2025
Funding agency: Belspo

Construction of a dashboard for the evaluation of Covid policies

We will construct a dashboard for the evaluation of policy measures in the context of a pandemic, taking into account that these measures (a) have an impact on different components of wellbeing (health, income, social contacts and loneliness, freedom, mobility, feeling of being integrated in society,…); (b) will affect different groups in society in a different way and (c) should not be evaluted in comparison to the situation before the start of the pandemic, but in comparison to the situation with a pandemic and without restrictive measures. The results from epidemiological models will be integrated in a broader evaluative framework. Use will also be made of the (growing) literature analysing observational data with good statistical techniques. The aim is to fill in the various cells of the dashboard in so far as this is possible. It is obvious, however, that there will be crucial lacunae remaining. If possible, these lacunae will be filled with original results using Belgian data.

Period: 01/12/2020 – 30/06/2021
Funding agency: KU Leuven BOF

COVIVAT: Corona Onderzoeksconsortium voor Inkomensverdeling en Sociale Effecten

This project is a collaboration of three research groups that are internationally renowned for their work on microsimulation, policy evaluation, and poverty. They have a longstanding history of successful collaboration and will form a research consortium for the purpose of measuring the impact of COVID-19 on those most in need. This includes: 1) Real-time monitoring of income and poverty statistics using nowcasting; 2) Assessment of social and economic measures, using EUROMOD; 3) Assessment of the socioeconomic impact of macro-economic scenario’s and exit strategies. 4) Disclosing administrative databases for COVID-19 monitoring.

Period: 01/09/2020 – 31/08/2021
Funding agency: FOD SZ

Is it depressing to grow old? A life course perspective on the social origins of old age depression across 20 countries

In this project, we focus on the social determinants of depression and depressive symptoms in old age (i.e. after the age of 65). We empirically examine whether, and if so to what extent, changes in social and economic capital over the life course affect the prevalence of depression and depressive symptoms in old age. In doing so, we (1) identify possible social selection and social causation pathways and gender differences; (2) untangle the causal effects of intergenerational transfers of time and money; and (3) test the role of the institutional context of the welfare state. We draw on comparable, longitudinal health and retirement surveys, providing us with a unique setup to study the social determinants of old age depression across 16 high income welfare states.

Duration: 25/09/2018 – 25/09/2022

Disappointing poverty rates and immigration flows in Western welfare states

A cross-national investigation into the poverty rates of western welfare states and people with a migration background among these countries.

Funding agency: KU Leuven
Duration: 01/10/2019 – 30/09/2023

Project for the operation and development of new statistics in the Datawarehouse Labour Market and Social Protection (DWH LM&SP)

The central aim of this research project is to update, evaluate and further develop the Datawarehouse Labour Market and Social Protection (DWH LM&SP) for the benefit of scientific research and the evaluation of policies.

Funding agency: Federal government (OZ prog)
Period: 01/07/2018 – 31/12/2023

Completed research projects

MISSION: Mobile Integrated Social Services Increasing employment Outcomes for people in Need

The objective of the MISSION project is to implement a pilot programme aimed at increasing the take up of employment services amongst disadvantaged families in the Belgian city of Kortrijk. The pilot programme will be tested by means of a randomized controlled trial (RCT).

Download the final report

Funding agency: European Commission under the EASI-Progress programme
Period: 01/12/2016-31/11/2019

Family support policy

The aim of this pilot study is to gain more insight into the living conditions of vulnerable families with young children, and how the living conditions in six areas of life have evolved in the years following the birth of their youngest child. From their experiences we can learn at which thresholds these families clash, and which forms of support in the six areas of life helped them to move forward. The results will also give us a more nuanced picture of the living conditions of these families than is possible on the basis of the static risk of poverty indicator. Finally, this research can form the basis of a large-scale research design to map the trajectories of people with young children who live in deprivation.

Funding agency: Flemish government (SWVG-EF 40)
Period: 01/08/2019-31/05/2020

Research on the further operationalization and harmonization of income selectivity in Flemish family policy

In order to optimize the choices made by the Flemish government, there is now a need for expertise, critical thinking and analysis in the short term to map out the pros and cons of certain operationalization harmonization proposals. That is the purpose of the this project.

Funding agency: Flemish government
Period: 01/08/2017 – 31/07/2018

Wish, fact and fiction in basic income thinking

The objective of the project is to compile a critical review of the literature on basic income and its effects on several dimensions of people’s lives, and to provide some empirical explorations for the Netherlands using microsimulation techniques.
Funding agency: Stichting Instituut GAK
Co-PI: Ive Marx
Period: 01/04/2017-31/12/2017.

Studie over het toekomstig model van de kinderbijslagen in het Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest.

In this study, potential models for reforming the child benefit system in the Brussels-Capital Region will be examined. Starting point is that child benefits serve to provide cash support for families with children, in particular for families with children living in poverty. Future models need to take into account the particular socio-economic situation and the socio-demographic composition of the Brussels population.
Funding agency: Gem. Gemeenschapscommissie van Brussel-hoofdstad
Period: 01/10/2016-01/09/2017
Researcher: Bart Bozek

Is a work strategy for reducing child poverty amongst disabled children effective or a shot misfired? An empirical exploration of child poverty, childhood disability and the work-care nexus in Flanders

I’m co-supervising FWO-funded PhD research on childhood disability, child poverty, and social policy. The risk of being poor for (families of) disabled children is associated with the fact that a) participation in the labour market is difficult for parents as they need to provide care for their children; b) families with disabled children generally have a lower socioeconomic status; and c) they face more medical and other expenses. The main objective of the research proposal is 1) to investigate the interrelationships between these factors; 2) to identify the impact of the current social policy package in Flanders on labour market participation and poverty; and 3) to examine how the prevailing policy paradigm should be recalibrated to achieve better results in terms of child poverty reduction.
Funding agency: Fund for Scientific Research – Flanders
Period: 01/10/2015-31/09/2019
Researcher: Julie Vinck

In depth analysis on effects of poverty on the living and working conditions of women and on their children.

Upon request by European Parliament’s FEMM Committee, this in-depth analysis examines the extent of women’s poverty in the EU and the impact of social exclusion through poverty on living and working conditions of women and their children. The analysis concludes with a discussion of policy measures that have been taken in EU Member States for enabling paid employment and ensuring adequate income protection.

Funding agency: European Parliament
Period: 01/03/2015-31/03/2015

Een empirisch onderzoek naar de betaalbaarheid en wenselijkheid van hervormingen in de toekomstige Vlaamse kinderbijslag: uitwerken en simuleren van mogelijke en haalbare scenario’s.

De doelstelling van het onderzoeksproject is tweeledig: 1) het uitwerken, valideren en evalueren van hervormingsvoorstellen van de kinderbijslag op Vlaams niveau; en 2) het in kaart brengen van de uitkomsten en knelpunten van het implementeren van een inkomenstoets (gerelateerd aan de gezinsgrootte) in de kinderbijslag op Vlaams niveau.

Funding agency: Steunpunt WVG
Period: 01/12/2014-31/12/2015
Co-superviser: Gerlinde Verbist
Researcher: Julie Vinck

Child poverty, childhood disability and the work-care nexus: Data collection and a first empirical exploration of the social policy package in Flanders

The main purpose of this KP-BOF project is to initatiate new empirical research on the link between child poverty and childhood disability. Drawing on administrative data which will be disclosed for the first time, the project aims to conduct a proper overview of the poverty risk of children with disabilities in Belgium and to develop new hypotheses on the impact of social policy on the poverty risk of these children.

Funding agency: BOF University of Antwerp
Period: 01/02/2015-31/12/2015
Researcher: Julie Vinck

A long goodbye to the paradox of redistribution? An inquiry into the role of policy design in poverty reduction across and within developed welfare states (2014-2017)

This postdoctoral research project is funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) and supervised by Bea Cantillon (University of Antwerp). The question of how social policy should be designed in order to have the biggest impact on poverty, is often answered with the truism that ‘policies designed for the poor, are poor policies’. Indeed, it was generally found that universally designed social policies are better able to reduce poverty than policies targeted to the poor; a phenomenon termed the ‘paradox of redistribution’. Behind this paradox lies the observation that universal welfare states tend to be bigger welfare states; they spend more on social policy. In contrast, recent empirical studies find that targeting tends to be associated with higher instead of lower levels of poverty reduction, in particular when accompanied by high levels of social spending. The current state of the literature does not allow to explain the changed relationship between targeting and poverty reduction. Therefore, the main aim of this research proposal is to unravel the link between poverty reduction and targeting across and within developed economies. I will empirically address two hypotheses that might shed light on the mechanisms of how social policy impacts on poverty, and seek to understand the role played by the design of social policy. I will address several shortcomings of previous research and test the generalizability of the results using quantitative as well as a qualitative research methods.

Funding agency: Research Foundation Flanders (FWO)
Period: 01/10/2014-30/09/2017

The Social State of Flanders 2013 – The income position of single parent families in Flanders (2013)

This research project funded by the Flemish Government and supervised by Bea Cantillon (University of Antwerp) and Dimitri Mortelmans (University of Antwerp) investigates the income position of single parent families and the impact of divorce and widowhood in this respect, both within Flanders and Belgium as across European countries.

The redistributive capacity of the innovating welfare state: a comparative evaluation of Sweden, The Netherlands and Belgium (2010-2014)

This is a research project funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) and supervised by Bea Cantillon (University and Antwerp) and Joris Ghysels (Maastricht University). Historically, welfare states emerged to guarantee fair life conditions to all and to do so, protected the full population against the adverse consequences of “social risks” such as illness, unemployment and disability. However, society has changed over time and “new” social risks (NSRs) emerged, such as the inability to reconcile paid work and care. Accordingly, welfare states developed new social policies. This research project aims to assess these adjustments in three welfare states (Belgium/Flanders, Sweden and the Netherlands) in a European comparative perspective, with the work-family conflict as a case in point. Since inequality is on the rise again in Europe, the overarching research question concerns the role of NSR policies in the redistributive capacity of welfare states. The question “who profits the most from social policies and is this distribution efficient?” is rarely subject of investigation but is of uttermost importance in the light of social policymaking subject to budgetary constraints and shifting priorities due to – for instance – population ageing. The project is innovative as it sheds new light on coverage for NSRs, fuels the theoretical debate on the mechanisms underlying welfare state redistribution and opens the way for policy innovation concerning a more equalizing distributional agenda.

The determinants of care strategies amongst low skilled mothers (2008-2010)

This is a research project funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) and supervised by Bea Cantillon (University and Antwerp) and Joris Ghysels (Maastricht University). The aim is to investigate and explain the low labour market participation rates of low skilled mothers in Belgium. Employing new survey data will allow to include care as one the main explanatory factors into the analysis.