Ben Baumberg

I am currently a Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy at the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR) at the University of Kent, and Co-Director of the University of Kent's Q-Step initiative. I am also a member of the Exec of the Social Policy Association and the editorial board of the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice.

I have a wide range of research interests, currently focused on:

  • Disability, the workplace, and the benefits system (see Disability page);
  • Attitudes around benefits and 'scroungers' (see Social Attitudes page); and
  • The relationship between evidence and policy (see Other page).

A complete list of all my academic publications, non-academic writing, qualifications and positions is available here. If you're interested in studying at Kent then look at our postgrad and undergrad pages; I'm also very happy to co-supervise research students on any of my research interests - information on PhD bursaries at Kent is available here, and just send me an email if you want to explore this.

Getting in touch

I'm always happy to hear from potential collaborators / research students, or from people who are just interested in my research. You can email me at b dot p dot b...berg at kent dot ac dot uk (click here to see a spambot-protected email address in plain English), or get in touch via Inequalities. To hear about any new research/writing, then follow me on Twitter, my Google Scholar profile, or academia.edu. I also write occasional articles at the collaborative research blog Inequalities that I set up (with others) in 2010.

Latest updates

British Social Attitudes

17/6/2014 - I've written a chapter on attitudes to the benefits system in the latest edition of the fabulous British Social Attitudes series. Partly I look at the latest trends, and argue that people's attitudes to benefits are not as negative as many people think (as I argue in a blog post for The Conversation). I also look at people's attitudes to financial struggles (both their own and other people's), and how they link to benefit attitudes. You can read the full chapter here.

Attitudes to social mobility

12/5/2014 - I've been involved with a TUC pamphlet on social mobility (led by Declan Gaffney), called Dismantling the barriers to social mobility. One of my main contributions was looking at public attitudes to mobility, and while this was cut from the final report for space reasons, I blogged about the results here.

The £2m 'Q-Step' centre - innovation in teaching quantitative methods

5/10/2013 - As it stands, social science undergraduates across the UK rarely have good quantitative skills (outside of Psychology or Economics) – that is, skills for interpreting or creating statistical analyses to help understand the social world. This causes problems for academia, for employers, and more broadly for having a citizenry who can critique the ever-increasing barrage of statistical information they face in their daily lives. The Nuffield Foundation, the ESRC and Hefce have therefore put nearly £20m to create 15 'Q-Step' centres across the country, which were awarded this week after a highly-competitive process.

Kent was one of the successful centres - and after writing the bid, Trude Sundberg and I are now coordinating the initiative itself. Over the next five years, our fantastic team will make this vision a reality, giving students new skills not just in quantitaitve methods but also in qualitative methods and wider critical thinking skills, as well as experience in applying this to the world around them. See our press release as the initiative launched, and for further details please don't hesitate to get in touch with me or Trude!

Successful research bids on disability (ESRC, MRC/ESRC and JRF)

5/10/2013 - I've recently been successful with several research bids that link in some way to my research interest in disability, work and benefits. This includes (i) a three-and-a-half year ESRSC fellowship (2014-2017) looking at how work-related disabilities have greater impacts on those with other disadvantages, and further probing public and elite opinion (working with the think-tank Demos) on whether this should be reflected in incapacity assessment itself; (ii) a small Joseph Rowntree Foundation project on disability and poverty, led by Tom MacInnes at the New Policy Institute; and (iii) a major MRC/ESRC project on ageing and employment, led by the Head of SSPSSR, Prof Sarah Vickerstaff. Further details are available here, and please get in touch if you're interested in finding out more.

The stigma of claiming benefits

20/11/2012 - Is there a stigma to claiming benefits? If so, why, and does it matter? In a nutshell, these are the questions that I am looking at in a collaborative project with Kate Bell and Declan Gaffney, funded by the charity Elizabeth Finn Care, who run the advice line/website Turn2us. The project isn't that big, but despite this we're squeezing in a new survey, an unusually deep media analysis, analysis of existing data, and a few focus groups. You can also the report itself, a quick note on a figure used in a Guardian article, and the appendices to the report.

Aside from our one-page summary in the report itself, you can also read short blogs on several different bits of the report - we've written on perceived fraud in the benefits system (on Inequalities), the role of the media (on the New Statesman blog, and a longer version here), and how benefits stigma is misunderstood (on LSE Politics & Policy). Other people have written about the report in the Guardian (including on their Datablog), and the TUC's Touchstone blog (also reposted on Liberal Conspiracy).

One part of this that some people seemed to have found useful is our 'mythbusting' briefing (mainly a fantastic job by Declan), building on our earlier version for Red Pepper (version with footnotes). I'm currently developing my thoughts on this, with another paper focusing on this hopefully coming out later in 2013.

Non-academic writing

1/7/2012 - Other than near-weekly posts on the Inequalities blog, I'm occasionally writing for other blogs - the full list is available here, but the one that drew most attention was Let's all be open about what we earn on the Guardian's Comment is Free blog. In this, I argued that one of the reasons that people are relatively relaxed about inequality is that we don't tell each other what we earn. [In the interests of disclosure and not being a complete hypocrite, I'm now on about £38k. Also, for anyone wondering about the role of political ideologies in research, my views are covered here].

Comments and critiques are always welcome - this is what blogging is for!