My research, teaching, and service concentrate on how we use rights as means by which to improve well-being. My research program investigates what institutions and structures facilitate, and obstruct, agency when it comes to using rights to improve outcomes, reduce disparities, and advance social policies. My work matters to a range of stakeholders, from non-governmental organizations to quasi- and governmental institutions. Much of my work is interdisciplinary, drawing on sociology, law, and public policy research. A key component of my research is collaborating with students. I will serve as a Jefferson Science Fellow over 2020-2021 with a Bureau of the U.S. Department of State’s Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.
Teaching and mentoring are among the most gratifying aspects of my academic career. Hands-on experiences are key to courses I teach on methods. Over fifteen years, I have taught “Research Methods,” an upper-level, required undergraduate course that presents an overview of key strategies social scientists employ to undertake research. To gain hands-on experiences, students undertake class projects, which have ranged from fear of crime on campus to factors shaping opinions of human rights. The students and I explore a range of approaches to empirical social research. My objective is to improve research skills through practice. Students in my course thus conduct interviews, perform participant observations, undertake photo elicitations, and prepare and administer a survey, then analyze survey data. A second course is “Comparative-Historical Social Research,” through which students learn about and work with comparative-historical methodological approaches to social science research. After turning to “classic” texts in comparative-historical research, the students and I consider historical research, then turn to comparisons across cases, for which we concentrate on configurational comparative methods. This course focuses on fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis and its cousins.
As a Fulbright Scholar, I taught “Children’s Rights and Social Policy,” a course that tackles contemporary issues around children’s rights. I have taught a course on “Human Rights.” Students and I considered types of rights, turning to prominent typologies of rights, then undertook historical analyses of treaties, contrasting similarities and differences in how rights are articulated, what rights are provided, what standards are imposed, and what conditions are placed on rights. We then asked who has employed human rights to produce social change and what impediments they have encountered in pursuing this change.
The course I teach that takes rights as its focus is “Law and Society.” This course asks how do rights “fit” into the U.S. legal system and society. A centerpiece of the course is a socio-legal analysis of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s strategy in using Plessy to dismantle legal segregation. Students and I then turn to social movements that have borrowed from the Civil Rights movement as a strategy to challenge other inequalities, such as the Pay Equity movement. A second course I have taught is “Law and the Public-Private Dichotomy for Social Policy.” With a basis in scholarship on the sociology of law, this course considers impacts of “law” on public-private boundaries and how “law” designates which actors and institutions belong to public and private sectors.
Placing a course in a bigger picture is a key feature of all courses I teach, including “Health Policy.” The focus of this course is U.S. health policy, but we place the U.S. system in comparative-historical perspective while taking a broader perspective of how “upstream” factors shape our health and health-care system.
Human Rights and Societal Resilience?
This study seeks to assess how human rights systems performance shapes societal resilience. It seeks to answer two questions: (1) Can a strong commitment to human rights mitigate unrest, instability, and conflict? (2) Can government corruption function as a weak link to human rights systems, leading to vulnerabilities in societal resilience and susceptibility to terrorism and other factors that weaken societal resilience and security? This study expects to show that some aspects of human rights systems are more important to societal resilience, as well as that weak links in human rights systems open doors to forces that undermine resilience. This study will undertake pooled, cross-sectional analyses and fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analyses (fsQCA) of 160 countries to identify multiple causal configurations of human rights systems and other factors to explain societal resilience. FsQCA will be employed to identify minimum thresholds of human rights performance necessary to societal resilience, as well as counterfactual analyses of logically possible but empirically non-existent causal configurations. This study will closely compare four countries that represent types of human rights systems, societal resilience, public corruption, and terrorism.
By examining the impacts of human rights systems and other factors on societal resilience, this study will provide insights, frameworks, and data to support scientific efforts to anticipate more accurately instability and conflict. Insights will be gained into social dynamics across the world as well as in regions of interest. This study will examine impacts of human rights systems and other factors on societal resilience and will inform strategic thinking about resource allocation across defense efforts as well as policies on international relations and engagement strategies. The study will examine components of corruption as well as degrees of corruption as factors that intervene into relationships between human rights and societal resilience.
Rights and Well-being
I continue to contribute to sociology of the welfare state and social policy through studies of the public-private dichotomy. In March, I was invited to a European Union Cooperation in Science and Technology meeting in Barcelona to lecture on how public and private components of health insurance programs can bolster and hinder individuals’ attempts to extend their working lives. I am preparing a journal manuscript on the findings I presented in this lecture. I also ask, can governments use rights to change how parents raise families? Feldman, a former student, and I apply a typology we have developed to forty-four countries to show that few public paternity-leave policies are organized to promote equity in families (Feldman and Gran, International Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare). Feldman and I are investigating whether equity in parental leave policies leads to equity in paid labor markets and improved health outcomes. Anne Bryden, a doctoral student, Kim Anderson, other scholars, and I are undertaking a study of experiences people with spinal cord injuries encounter as they pursue care and seek to implement their rights. Elizabeth Nalepa, a doctoral student, and I are completing a fsQCA study of differences in abortion rights; this project investigates whether rights are useful in private domains. Cory Cronin, an Ohio University professor and former student, and I are working on whether and how transportation matters to using health insurance in order to receive medical care services.
International Survey of Human Rights
Within sociology there is a significant need to ascertain individuals’ beliefs, opinions, attitudes, and experiences with human rights from a comparative perspective. A consensus has arisen that such empirical research on how human rights principles and practices reflect and affect different societies will be useful not only to social scientists specializing in human rights, but also to social scientists who study law, culture, environment, political economy, development, social movements, social problems, and inequalities of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and national origin, among other areas. I am co-directing a study that is developing the first truly International Survey of Human Rights (ISHR). The ISHR asks questions about universal human rights norms and laws applicable across social and cultural contexts to investigate how opinions of, beliefs about, attitudes toward, and experiences with human rights vary and why. The ISHR will provide social scientists with the raw material – data – they need to better understand human rights both within and across societies. With these data, we will learn about human rights from an individual perspective in multiple contexts. The ISHR will be repeated every five years. As countries are added to the ISHR database, previous countries will continue to be studied.
My research on children’s rights seeks to answer why we need children’s rights when, after all, we have human rights that are universal, as well as identifying factors that influence implementation and decoupling of children’s rights across the world.
Gran, B. In press. Sociology of Children’s Rights. Polity Press.
Robinson, L, and Gran, B. (2018). No Kid is an Island. American Behavioral Scientist 62 (10): 1413-1430.
Gran, B. (2017). An International System of Children’s Rights? Annual Review of Law and Social Science 13: 79-100.
Human Right to Science
Articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the human right to science has potential to benefit people all over the world, particularly people living in countries where women and girls do not have the same opportunities as men and boys to pursue educations and careers.
Boggio, A, and Gran, B. A Proposal for Indicators of the Human Right to Science. Invited chapter for the book, The Human Right to Science, Then and Now.
Gran, B. The Human Right to Science. Research monograph in progress.
Gran, B. Indicators of the Human Right to Science. Research manuscript in progress.
I have provided commentary to UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights regarding its General Comment on the human right to science.
International Survey of Human Rights (ISHR)
David Brunsma, Virginia Tech Sociology, Keri Iyall Smith, Suffolk Sociology, and I direct the ISHR, the first truly international survey of human rights. The ISHR asks questions about universal human rights norms and laws applicable across social and cultural contexts to investigate how opinions of, beliefs about, attitudes toward, and experiences with human rights vary and why.
Recovering from Spinal Cord Injury
Kimberly Anderson, CWRU Professor Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Anne Bryden, a Case Western doctoral student, Sue Hinze, CWRU Sociology, and I are undertaking a qualitative study of how people with spinal cord injuries (SCI) and their families experience recovery and rehabilitation.
Gran, B., and Bryden, A. Disability Rights and Social and Economic Participation. Invited chapter for the book, Oxford Handbook on the Sociology of Disability.
Hospitals and Community Benefits
With Cory Cronin, a CWRU PhD and now an Ohio University faculty member, and Berkeley Franz, Ohio University, this project investigates the degree to which hospitals perform community benefits, what kinds of benefits, and what societal- and community-level factors mitigate community benefits.
Cronin, C., Franz, B., and Gran, B. Hospital Community Benefit in Rural Appalachia: One More Gap. Accepted for publication with Rural Sociology.
Cronin, C., and Gran, B. The importance of environment: Neighborhood characteristics and parent perceptions of child health. Journal of Child Health Care. Forthcoming.
Cronin, C., and Gran, B. (2017). Community Benefit Practices and their Relationships to Organizational Survival. Journal of Organizational Psychology 17(6): 37-47.
Parental Leave Policy
With Karie Feldman, a CWRU PhD and now a CWRU faculty member, this project asks whether governments can use rights to change how parents raise families. Feldman and I apply a typology we have developed to forty-four countries to show that few public paternity-leave policies are organized to promote equity in families.
Feldman, K., and Gran B. Do paternity leave policies promote health equity? A cross-national examination of paternity leave policies and health outcomes. Accepted for publication with Journal of Family Relations.
Feldman, K. and Gran, B. (2016). What’s in it for dad? Developing a typology for a cross-national comparison of paternity leave policies. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare 43 (1), 95-119.
Gran, B. NSF RAPID: COVID-19 and Derogation of Human Rights. Law and Science Program, National Science Foundation. Summer 2020. Funded.
Anderson, K., A. Bryden (CWRU Sociology PhD student), S. Hinze (CWRU Sociology), & B. Gran. Perspectives on Recovery and Interventions to Restore Function after Spinal Cord Injury. Spinal Cord Injury Research Program, Department of Defense. Spring 2019. Funded.
Cronin, C., B. Franz, & B. Gran. Understanding the Contributions For-Profit Hospitals Make as Community Anchors: Does a Corporate Mission Detract from Social Responsibility? Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Fall 2019. Funded.
Awards and Honors
Chair and Past Chair, American Sociological Association Human Rights Section. 2018-2020.
Chair, Children’s Rights Center, Hope for Children, 2018-present.
Chair, Collaborative Research Network on Law and the Public-Private Dichotomy, Law and Society Association. 2009-present.
Member, American Sociological Association Program Committee. 2019.
Member, National Conference of Lawyers and Scientists. 2016-2019.
I have been invited to speak with the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Science and the Human Rights Coalition of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and COST Action IS1409, as well as universities including Seoul National University, Sungkyunkwan University, the University of Bath, the University of Michigan, and the University of Cambridge. I was honored to serve as a member of the 2019 Program Committee of the American Sociological Association, as well as Chair (now: Past Chair) of the ASA Human Rights Section. I enjoy serving on review panels for the Fulbright Commission, the Boren Fellowship program, and the National Science Foundation.
I am honored to serve as a member of the 2019 Program Committee of the American Sociological Association, as well as Chair-Elect of the ASA Human Rights Section. I am a member of the Council of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition. For the Coalition, I chair a project that is developing a database of indicators of the right to science. I enjoy serving on review panels for the Fulbright Commission, the Boren Fellowship program, and the National Science Foundation.