The Polish Panel Survey POLPAN is a unique program of panel surveys carried out since 1988 in 5-year intervals, and focused on describing the social structure and its change during the last 30 years in Poland.

The theoretical framework of POLPAN originates from the tradition of Polish sociological thinking, taking account of Stanislaw Ossowski’s analytical approach, Julian Hochfeld’s theory of class, Jan Szczepański’s historical perspective and Wlodzimierz Wesolowski’s research program. Members of the POLPAN team also refer to the classic empirical body of research on social structure in Poland, initiated by the works by Wlodzimierz Wesolowski, Adam Sarapata, Stefan Nowak, Stanislaw Widerszpil, Jan Malanowski, Krzysztof Zagorski and Michal Pohoski. More recent works which are of relevance for POLPAN include, among others, those by Henryk Domanski, Marek Ziolkowski, Edmund Wnuk-Lipinski or Jacek Wasilewski. The theoretical foundations of POLPAN also invoke the paradigm of rational action and individual biographies, creatively continued in the context of social structure in the work of international researchers (see, e.g., Blossfeld, Perin 1998; Mayer 2009; Goldthorpe 2006; DiPrete 2007; Breen 2010).

Since its early days, POLPAN relied on the theoretical traditions of social structure research. The first of those traditions was the analysis of social structure in terms of social relations and, in particular, control and subordination of some social categories to others (a class approach). The second tradition focuses on analysing the distribution of commonly desired goods (a stratification approach). The third tradition, tracing its roots to humanistic sociology, analyses psychological states which—when presented in the institutional context of their bearers—can represent a foundation for the formation of social groups (a socio-psychological approach).

Initially, in 1988, the survey was conducted among a national sample representing Poland’s adult population (aged 21-65), with N = 5,817. In 1993, this sample was randomly reduced to 2,500 individuals, whom researchers tried to reach in each of the consecutive five-year waves. To ensure an adequate age balance, additional subsamples involving young cohorts have been supplemented later. For example, the 2008 sample comprised 1,825 respondents of whom 1,244 belong to the strict panel, while 581 cases consist of newly added individuals aged 21-25 years. In 2013 we made an attempt to contact all respondents (7,261) who have ever participated in the study. The most recent wave of the study was carried out in 2018 (2,161 respondents were interviewed).

The POLPAN study is special also with respect to the scope of the collected data. Socio-demographic information of respondents and their families is supplemented by items on socio-political attitudes, some of them present in cross-national studies. At the same time, POLPAN includes the nonverbal Raven test, which captures intellectual flexibility (an essential IQ component), and the Nottingham Health Profile, which measures certain aspects of physical and mental health.

The project deals with interdisciplinary problems that can be labeled as follows: the “old” and “new” elements in the social structure; changes in the class structure; social mobility; differences in the standard of living; the process of adaptation to a market economy; the impact of the location in social structure on political attitudes and behavior; perception of social conflicts; winners, losers, and the European integration; health issues; emigration.

These research areas are important since they pertain to individuals’ allocation to positions in the system of social inequalities (who is located  where in the social structure?) and distribution of goods in the society (who gets what and why?). Both the individuals’ allocation and distribution of goods can be more or less effective. We plan to assess allocative and distributional effectiveness in the context of the impact of intellectual and social resources on individuals’ biographies.

POLPAN is carried out by the Team for Comparative Analyses of Social Inequality (CASIN) at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences (IFiS PAN), and in cooperation with researchers from other Polish and international academic institutions.

The integrated data file POLPAN 1988–2018 if available at the Harvard Dataverse. Documentation and data related to waves 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003 and 2008 are available for download at GESIS-ZACAT and the Polish Social Data Archive.


Blossfeld, H-P., G. Prein, G., eds. 1998. Rational Choice Theory and Large-Scale Data Analysis. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Breen, R. 2010. Social mobility and equality of opportunity. The Economic and Social Review 41: 413-428.

DiPrete, Th. 2007. What has sociology to contribute to the study of inequality trends? An historical and comparative perspective. American Behavioral Scientist 50:603-618.

Goldthorpe, J. 2006. On Sociology. Second Edition. Stanford CA: Stanford UP.

Mayer, K.U. 2009. New directions in life course research. Annual Review of Sociology 35: 413–433.