The POLPAN team has begun preparations for the seventh wave of the Polish Panel Survey POLPAN, planned for 2018.

Below we present a description of the project.

Bibliography can be found at:


The goal of the seventh wave of the Polish Panel Survey POLPAN is to advance a uniquely valuable panel data set that enables both cross-sectional and dynamic analyses of the social structure in Poland over a 30 year period.

The main assumption of the project is that the same respondents are visited repeatedly and changes in their individual biographies are recorded. The core of the questionnaire used in POLPAN remains the same, although in each wave ongoing social and economic changes make it necessary to introduce new topics. The questionnaire contains items concerning the respondent’s occupational career, education and continuing training, composition of the respondent’s household and material living conditions, perception of conflicts in society, political behaviors and attitudes, perceived sources of success in life, physical and psychological well-being, views on the role of the state, attitudes toward economic transformations and European integration, and experiences of emigration, among others. Within the proposed project we also expect to gather knowledge about new phenomena. Among them, there are certainly dynamic changes taking place in the Polish labor market, as well as changes in attitudes and political expectations that result from the parliamentary and presidential elections. We plan to supplement the structured survey with biographical interviews with respondents from particular demographic categories.

As from the beginning, the Polish Panel Survey adheres to the best methodological standards in the social sciences. POLPAN is based on individual, questionnaire-based interviews with respondents aged 21 and older. POLPAN was initiated in 1988 and has since been repeated every five years – the subsequent waves were conducted in 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008, and 2013. The original sample in 1988 comprised six thousand people and was representative of the Poland’s adult population aged 21-65. To maintain representativeness, every five years a new subsample of younger respondents (aged 21-25) is added to the core sample. As a result, the POLPAN sample in 2018 will include 2,590 persons aged 21-95.

The Polish Panel Survey POLPAN pursues the following goals:

  • to provide an overall profile of the social structure of the Polish society – including subjective perceptions and objective conditions – updated every five years;
  • to analyze – from a long-term perspective and in a multi-dimensional way – the dynamics of social structure in Poland, with a particular emphasis on adaptation to the ongoing economic, political and cultural change.

POLPAN is a pioneer in the field of survey research. There is no other similar panel data set in Poland or in Europe, in which life histories of individuals would be collected for such a long time span. The advantage of the study is that it draws upon academic disciplines across the social sciences. The core belongs to sociology but the project is also related to demography (e.g., family composition, retention of marital status, number of children in the family), economics (e.g., household income and its components, income elasticity of expenditure for food and culture), psychology (e.g., measurement of IQ by Raven test, measurement of authoritarianism and self-perception), and political science (e.g., voting behavior, opinions about political parties, democratic values). The data will also likely be of interest to historians, especially those that cover the fall of State Socialism and the first phase of the post-Communist transition.

The concept and study of social structure is fundamental to the sociology and across the social sciences; accumulated empirical knowledge of it should be regularly updated. The theory of social structure – based on empirical evidence – is necessary for the construction of social and political theories. Most sociological subfields, such as the sociology of inequality, and health and medicine, use social structural variables. Cross-sectional surveys of the social structure conducted in Poland and around the world provide only a static picture of society. In order to understand the functioning of the social structure, dynamic studies are needed, such as the one we propose.

POLPAN 2018 data, collected in the framework of this project, will be anonymized and attached to the data set from previous waves of the survey. As it was in the past, POLPAN updated with 2018 data will be made available for free to all interested researchers through the Polish Social Data Archive (www.ads.org.pl) and the German data archive ZACAT-GESIS (www.gesis.org). Under the project, a series of workshops will be carried out that will help researchers to use the data.

Detailed description of the intended research

I. Substantive and Methodological Goals

This project’s main goal is to provide concrete new knowledge on the dynamics of social structure during the last 30 years in Poland, based on a unique dataset involving a rigorous sample of the national adult population interviewed face-to-face on a wide range of topics. Attaining this goal is possible by continuing the already existing panel research, for which data were collected via face-to-face interviews in 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008 and 2013 in the Polish Panel Survey, and by collecting new data in 2018. The resulting POLPAN 1988-2018 dataset will be invaluable for the social sciences, as it will allow for testing hypotheses about the impact of intellectual and social resources on individuals’ economic, political and cultural biographies, and more importantly, how these biographies shape social structure.

Substantively, POLPAN 1988-2018 will be crucial to studying the dynamics of social stucture, thanks to 30 years’ worth of data on individuals’ economic, political and cultural biographies. We will take into account individuals’ life courses in a long time span, and analyze how people form distingushable  segments of the social structure, and how intellectual and social resources influence specific outcomes.

Methodologically, POLPAN 1988-2018 will contribute key information on how to conduct long-term panel studies, and how to assess the quality of such data.  POLPAN’s input into the methodology of panel studies stems from (a) the fact that it is the only study in the world that follows a representative sample of a country’s adult population for 30 years, and (b) it has the proposed means for evaluating the quality of data obtained through repeated interviews with respondents.

II. POLPAN 1988-2018 and its Scientific Importance

II.1. Rationale for continuing POLPAN. To properly understand the functioning of social structure – that is, how individuals influence social structure while being influenced by it – a dynamic framework of analysis is necessary. The proposed research, POLPAN 1988-2018, offers this unique opportunity to assess, for as many as three decades, the extent of within-person variation (i.e. the change within people over time) in relation to the between-persons variation (i.e. differences between people over time). In addition to treating the position of individuals in the social structure as a determinant of their intellectual resources and attitudes, researchers will be able to use POLPAN data to test hypotheses about how these very resources and attitudes impact peoples’ achievements and their placement in the social structure.

Collecting a new POLPAN survey round in 2018 ensures that this already rich study will facilitate up-to-date analyses of the economic, political and cultural changes the Polish society undergoes. Such sweeping investigations will be possible due to the substantive scope of the collected data. Socio-demographic information of respondents and their families is supplemented by items on a wide range of socio-political attitudes. At the same time, POLPAN contains, in contrast to standard surveys, two specialized tests: the nonverbal Raven test, capturing intellectual flexibility, an essential IQ component, and the Nottingham Health Profile, measuring certain aspects of physical and mental health. The rich topic coverage in POLPAN 1988-2018 ensures the study’s relevance to the social sciences generally, by promoting collaboration between sociologists, political scientists, economists, social psychologists and survey methodologists.

II.2. Theoretical background. POLPAN 2018, like its previous editions,  will be strongly anchored in recent theoretical innovations surrounding analyses of social structure and its change, as well as in the most up-to-date survey methodology. The work of  Blossfeld and Prein (1998, Blossfeld and Drobnic 2001), Mayer (2009), Goldthorpe (2006), diPrete (2006, 2007), and Breen (2010) considers social structure in the framework of rational action and the life course, giving due attention to the methodological problems of longitudinal studies. Weeden and Grusky (2012), Rose and Harrison (2010), Yuval-Davis (2011), Atkinson (2010), Standing (2011), Stephens et al. (2014), Savage, Devine, Cunningham, Taylor, Li, Le Roux, Friedman, and Miles (2013), Blossfeld et.al (forthcoming) provide important insights into conceptualizing social structure in terms of social classes and biographies, and addresses the topic of how to operationalize such concepts in a panel study. Relying on theories that emphasize “structure” but also “agency” (Giddens 1984, Archer 2003), and applying these theories to data that include up to three decades in the lives of the panel respondents, represents one of the main innovative aspects of the POLPAN 1988-2018 study. Instead of debating the primacy of “structure vs. agency,” analyses will focus on the capacity of individuals to act and make their choices that are reflected in biographies, and determined, to some extent (which can be measured), by structural conditions.

II.3. Basic theoretical schema. POLPAN 2018, and the project in general, are governed by the basic assumptions that the two approaches to social structure, relational vs. distributional, need to be integrated with group-oriented vs. actor-oriented approaches (Coleman 1990, Goldthorpe 2006), as shown in Table 1.


Keeping with sociological tradition, analyses of social structure in terms of social relations, particularly relations concerning the control and subordination of certain social groups to others, can be identified as the class approach. Analyses of the distribution of commonly desired goods and values correspond to the stratification approach. We assume that inequalities reflected in social stratification are deeply rooted in social classes. We ask how social class and stratification affect economic, political and cultural biographies, and people’s social networks. Other main influences are marked above according to the basic theoretical arguments raised in the current vast literature.

II.4 Research questions and hypotheses. POLPAN 2018 is designed to enable (a) continued inquiry into the problematics the 1988-2013 panel rounds cover, and (b) to facilitate investigation of new questions and hypotheses.

POLPAN 2018 will initiate a new line of research, devoted to the relationship between economic, political and cultural classes, and their connection to individuals’ life stories. To what extent are the three class dimensions independent of each other, and to what extent do they overlap is one of the essential new questions that can be addressed once the 2018 data are collected. Another crucial question concerns consistencies and inconsistencies in peoples’ biographical trajectories, given the possibly reciprocal relation of economic, political and cultural aspects of trajectories. To address these issues, POLPAN 2018 data are essential.

The project’s main substantive hypothesis, that changes in the social structure are “path dependent” and lead to polarization through the cumulative advantage/disadvantage processes, implies the biblical Matthew effect (Merton 1968): the well-known colloquialism “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” expresses this message in a nutshell. Yet there is no reason why the principle of the Matthew effect should be limited to economic resources. In the POLPAN 2018 study, we will examine the extent to which political and economic resources follow a similar distribution pattern. The project will focus on: (1) testing whether growing social inequalities are rooted in the social-class structure, taking into account economic, political and cultural dimensions, (2) examining to what extent economic, political, and cultural biographies contribute to the cumulative advantage/disadvantage processes, and (3) investigating increasing inter-group distance according to various measures of attitudes and opinions. The concept of polarization, operationalized by Esteban and Ray (2012), is crucial here.

Another innovative contribution of POLPAN 2018 is also linked to the project’s leading methodological hypothesis which focuses on inconsistences in respondents’ answers to the same factual questions in consequtive panel waves. Our main hypothesis is that inconsistent recalls of past jobs, voting, or using the internet are based on various factors, such as forgetfulness, biases toward current views regarding the ideal answer, and cognitive dissonance about discrepancy between past behavior and current situation (see van Elsas, Lubbe, Meer, and Brug 2014).

III. Plan of the study

This proposal seeks support for the theoretical and methodological advancement of studies on social structure and its dynamics in Poland and for preparation of the new wave of the Polish Panel Study POLPAN conducted on a representative sample of the adult population of Poland since 1988, with a renewal sample and a sample of special categories (elite). The proposed project will be conducted according to the detailed timeline and with the oucomes

III.1. Timeline. To successfully carry out this research project, a five-year period is needed, which would be devoted to preparing and implementing the POLPAN 2018 study, carrying out the analyses that the project’s research questions and hypotheses call for, and disseminating empirical results to academic and non-academic audiences, including the general public.

III.2. Training through Research. POLPAN 2018 will select, via open competition and following appropriate national and EU regulations, three PhD students and two post-docs. In addition, we will continue to use POPLAN data for the Research Lab for undergraduate and graduate students, which CONSIRT conducts as part of a yearly international Summer School in Poland.

III.3 Interdisciplinary connections. The core of POLPAN belongs to sociology, but the project also has ties to demography (e.g., family composition, retention of marital status, number of children in the family), economics (e.g., household income and its components, income elasticity of expenditure for food and culture), political science (e.g., voting behavior, opinions about political parties, democratic values), and psychology (e.g., measurement of IQ by the Raven test, measurement of authoritarianism and self-image). The POLPAN team will increase the visibility of the project and raise its international and interdisciplinary character also through training events planned throughout the project’s execution, including seminars, workshops, and conferences.

III.4. Public impact of the POLPAN 2018 project. To continue, deepen and demonstrate the value and positive impact of the POLPAN project on Polish and European society, the POLPAN 2018 team will employ multi-faceted strategies to publicize the results and the data. POLPAN will create a series of targeted products that are presented in a clear, simple and engaging way, that are public-friendly and designed for synergistic dissemination between and among the media and the general public. All POLPAN products – media and public-friendly, and scientific-technical – will be archived on the internet in perpetuity by the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences at www.polpan.org.

III.5 Research team. The core of the research team that will conduct the POLPAN 2018 wave is composed of researchers whose expertise includes experience with previous POLPAN waves. The principal investigator, Kazimierz M. Slomczynski was involved in designing and implementing all prior POLPAN waves. He will be joined by Dr. Irina Tomescu-Dubrow as co-principal investigator, with Dr. Anna Kiersztyn and Dr. Malgorzata Mikucka as leading investigators. The core team consists also of Dr. Joshua K. Dubrow, Dr. Zbigniew Karpinski, the established professors Krystyna Janicka and Zbigniew Sawinski, and Danuta Zyczynska-Ciolek. All are members of the Cross-national Studies: Interdisciplinary Research and Training Program CONSIRT, supported by The Ohio State University and the Polish Academy of Sciences. The core research team will be joined by three Doctoral Fellows and two Post-Docs.

III.6. Effects (deliverables). The measurable outcomes of the proposed POLPAN 1988-2018 project are of four kinds: First, we will construct and deliver the data file on all people who at any time between 1988 and 2018 participated in the POLPAN study; second, we will submit manuscripts of two edited volumes and at least seven articles to JCR journals; third, we will develop and maintain the webpage (connected with social media) that will supplement all relevant materials for POLPAN and serve as discussion forum for researchers interested in panel analyses in general; and fourth, we will prepare a seminar and a series of workshops on panel data analysis for undergraduate and graduate (doctoral) students and post-doctoral researchers.

IV. Methodology

IV.1. Data collection. The main part of the 2018 data collection will involve the POLPAN 1988-2013 panel, consisting of 2,581 people, of whom 711 participated in all six waves.  Due to the renewal sample of persons aged 21-25 (N = 872) in 2018, POLPAN 2018 can also be treated, with appropriate weights, as a cross-sectional dataset, representative of the adult population of Poland aged 21 and older. The expected size of the representative sample N=2,290 cases, given a 62.5% to 70.0% response rate (based on previous POLPAN waves). In addition, we plan to conduct ca. 300 interviews with persons from special, numerically small categories dealing with elite positions. Thus, the expected total number of covered cases is 2,590. All interviews will be conducted face-to-face, using a standard questionnaire. The fieldwork will be done by the Research Center for Sociological Studies (ORBS) at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, the Polish Academy of Science; ORBS is well known for its high-quality fieldwork.


IV.2. Harmonization of data for POLPAN 1988-2018. Data quality. In light of transparency and replicability considerations, we follow the rules contained in the Data Documentation Initiative (DDI, www.ddialliance.org). The underlying principle, which we propose under the analytic framework of Survey Data Recycling (SDR) is that errors and biases in all survey projects can be dealt with explicitly in substantive analyses, via different types of data-quality control variables (Slomczynski and Tomescu-Dubrow 2015). We will archive the data with the Data Archive for Social Sciences (GESIS-Leibniz, Germany), DataVerse in the USA, and the Social Data Archive (Poland).

IV.3. Statistical analysis. Answering the project’s research questions and testing its main hypotheses require appropriate statistical apparatus for measuring social class in different dimensions; we plan to use fuzzy sets methods (Dompere 2004, see also Cooper 2005) and panel data well-known regression models (Wooldridge 2010, Andreß, Golsch and Schmidt 2013). In POLPAN, the random effects model can be tested as a regression model with a random intercept. Since POLPAN data are sufficiently rich, we may extend the idea of randomness to a random parameter model, in which the coefficients vary across individuals as well. We will continue to use non-linear modeling based on differential equasions (e.g. Brown 2007; Slomczynski, Krauze, and Peradzynski 1986; Slomczynski, Tomescu-Dubrow and Sawinski 2012).


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Słomczyński, K. M., I. Tomescu-Dubrow and Z. Sawiński. 2012. Modeling Occupational Careers for a Turbulent Economy: A Differential Equation Approach. International Journal of Sociology 42(4): 56-74.
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Van Elsas, E.J., R.M. Lubbe, T.W.G. van der Meer, and W. van der Brug. 2014. Vote recall. A study on the effects of time, volatility and current preferences on vote recall consistency. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 26(1): 18-40.
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Yuval-Davis, N. 2011. The Politics of Belonging: Intersectional Contestations. London: Sage.

Full bibliography of the project can be found here: POLPAN 2018 Bibliography