Public and private aspects of social policies have fascinated me for some time. As an undergrad, I interned for a corporate lawyer who asked me to work on establishing a corporation's private pension plan. Two aspects of private pension plans intrigued me: who pays for and who owns the pension benefit. I was surprised to learn that government indirectly pays (via tax breaks) for private pensions, which means tax payers contribute to private pensions. Another surprise was that, despite making contributions, an employee did not own the pension until it vested. Later, as an attorney, I represented Social Security Disability and Retirement pension claimants. I learned that employers and employees contribute to Social Security programs, but taxpayers do not. Similar to private pensions, even if an employee makes contributions, an employee does not qualify for the pension until she or he has contributed ten years.
These experiences led me to studies of public and private characteristics of social policies, asking who benefits and loses, and who is overlooked in public-private collaborations. I am a comparative sociologist whose work concentrates on law and social policy to make three important contributions to academic and policy research. First, taking a multi-method approach, my work demonstrates that it is hard to draw a line between public and private efforts to provide social security and welfare. My research demonstrates that separating public and private efforts to provide social policy services and programs is misleading. Instead, a more useful approach is to study overall systems of social policy provision in which public, private, and public-private efforts are considered. Second, because explanations of social policy development have concentrated on public efforts, new accounts are needed and extant explanations deserve rethinking. Third, going beyond public and private labels raises important concerns, especially whether public-private social policies are democratically accountable and, related, who wins and loses in policy battles.
Components of my research agenda: children’s ombudspersons (children’s commissioners), children’s rights and the Children’s Rights Index (CRI), and my other work on the public-private dichotomy.
Social Policy Puzzles: Reconsidering the Public-Private Dichotomy in Health and Pension Policies Béland, D. and Gran, B. (Editors) New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, Forthcoming, 2008 In affluent democracies, the welfare state often shares responsibilities with private institutions. Does public-private welfare provision vary across countries and, if so, how? Although scholars have long paid attention to these crucial questions, comparative research can offer unique insights to understanding the changing boundaries between the public and private spheres’ efforts to provide social benefits. Such knowledge is especially important now, as pushes for privatization and market-based social protection are strengthening in a number of advanced industrial societies. This book makes contributes to current debates by offering comprehensive analyses of the public-private dichotomy for social policies across four continents. It innovatively unites systematic quantitative analyses and qualitative, case studies of the public-private dichotomy for health and pension policies. This book underlines the complex nature of the public-private dichotomy for social policy.
The Rights of the Child Gran, B. In The Leading Rogue State: The US and Human Rights edited by Judith Blau, J., Moncada, A., Zimmer, C. and Brunsma, D. To be published by Paradigm Publishers
This chapter argues that the United States is a rogue state when it comes to children's rights. The U.S. government is one of only two in the world not to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. What legal changes would need to take place for the United States to meet this Convention?A Second Opinion: Rethinking the Public-Private Dichotomy for Health Insurance Gran, B. International Journal of Health Services 33(2): 283-313, 2003 Does the public-private dichotomy effectively describe health insurance systems in the advanced industrialized democracies? Is the boundary separating the public and private sectors accurate for studies of social policy formation and cutback? This article has three goals. The first is to discuss reasons for reconsidering the pubic-private dichotomy, as it applies to health insurance systems. The second is to offer a reconceptualization of the public-private demarcation useful for analyses of health insurance systems; the author presents four sectors that may illuminate patters of health insurance for different OECD countries; the social, individual, public, and market sectors. The third goal is to present results using a new methodological approach useful for studying complex social phenomena: the fuzzy-set approach, which allows researchers to treat social phenomena as partially belonging to more than one category. This approach is employed to demonstrate that health insurance provision rarely is solely public or private, but is formed by a combination of sectors. Underlying these three goals is the contention that comparative and historical sociological researchers can offer innovative approaches to the study of health insurance and the interests served by public and nonpublic health insurance programs through reconceiving the public-private dichotomy.
The Office of the Children’s Ombudsperson: Children’s Rights and Social-Policy Innovation Gran, B. and Aliberti, D. International Journal of the Sociology of Law 31(2): 89-106, 2003 A potential key to the future of children’s rights is the ombudsperson. In 1981, Norway became the first government to establish an office of a children’s ombudsperson, which has statutory powers to protect children and enforce their rights. This paper represents the first cross-national analysis of the offices of children’s ombudsperson. We employ Qualitative Comparative Analysis, which is based on Boolean algebra, to examine explanations why a national office of children’s ombudsperson has or has not been established in 193 countries up to the year 2000. Our research suggests social policy innovations responds to need and is contingent on country wealth, but is mediated by either strong political rights or subscription to international treaties. This work indicates future research should consider subsequent establishment of offices of children’s ombudsperson and the rights of children an ombudsperson seeks to enforce.
Since joining the Case faculty, I have prepared five courses: An Introduction to Sociology (Soci 112), Research Methods (Soci 303), Sociology of Law (Soci 360), Law and the Public-Private Dichotomy (Soci 355/455), and Sociology of Health Policy (Soci 365/465). One important objective I have established for my teaching is to present “real, live sociology” to the students. For example, the course on research methods (Soci 303) takes a hands-on approach; students undertake a research project for which they decide on a research question, a methodological approach to answer the question, and data sources, then collect data, undertake analyses, and report results.
I have had the pleasure of teaching two courses on sociology of law. One course (Soci 360) focuses on how rights have enabled or discouraged social change. The ultimate question is whether “law” can produce social change, or whether social change produces transformations in law. Because many students plan to pursue legal careers, class participants are required to visit different kinds of courts and to re-argue famous (or infamous) legal cases, including Plessy v. Ferguson, while attempting to answer the course’s overarching questions about the relationship between law and social change. A second course (Soci 355/455) focuses on law and the public-private dichotomy and is perhaps unique in the United States. Taught to undergraduate and graduate students, each week class participants evaluate a different legal case that hinges on conceptions of what is public and private, employing important social theories and sociological research to evaluate courts’ conclusions and parties’ arguments.
Another course I have had the pleasure to teach is entitled the Sociology of Health Policy (Soci 365/465). The overall objective of this course is to introduce students to sociological approaches to analyses of health policies and health-care outcomes. While pursuing this objective, students and I study different configurations of health-care systems and how those systems work. To explain these configurations, we turn to important research undertaken on health policy in comparative research on welfare states. After examining common health outcomes in the United States, class participants evaluate reforms of and directions the U.S. health-care system is taking. While the United States health-policy system is the center piece, students and I often compare it to systems found in other OECD countries.
At the conclusion of each course, I establish new goals for my teaching. For future courses, I want to incorporate other teaching approaches, such as service learning and other ways for students to have hands-on experiences. I also want to emphasize literatures, especially theoretical perspectives, prominent in other countries’ sociologies.
To the Sociology Department, my primary service is as associate director to Graduate Studies, which is directed by Professor Gary Deimling. As associate graduate director, I am responsible for recruitment of potential graduate students. In this role, I participate in a meeting to determine progress of individual graduate students, then help make decisions on tuition and stipend support of graduate students for the subsequent academic year.
Over the 2004-2005 academic year, Dr. Eva Kahana and I co-organized seven colloquia for the department, which we expect to organize for this academic year. This spring, with the support of a W.P. Jones grant and an American Sociological Association Teaching Enhancement Fund grant, Tanetta Andersson and I organized and hosted a three-day, intense workshop on visual sociology.
My service to the university is tied to research centers and the Law School. I am a Faculty Associate of the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations and the University Center on Aging and Health. I am a member of the Center for Policy Studies’ Advisory Board. I hold a secondary appointment in the Law School. On occasion, I have met with a group of potential undergraduate students and their parents. To the College of Arts and Sciences, I have served as a member of the Graduate Committee as well as the By Laws Committee.
I have served in different leadership positions for academic organizations. I am the Treasurer and Secretary of the International Visual Sociology Association (IVSA). For the American Sociological Association’s (ASA), I have organized roundtables and paper sessions of different annual meetings and served as chair and member of the ASA Sociology of Law section’s Membership Committee. I served on the Program Committee for the 2003 annual meeting of the Law and Society Association (LSA) and am the organizer of the LSA’s Collaborative Research Network on Law and the Public-Private Dichotomy.
Outside of Case Western Reserve University, I serve as referee for a variety of academic journals as well as grant-making agencies. I serve as local coordinator of the European Masters Program in Social Security, Catholic University of Leuven. I have participated in a research seminar sponsored by the Council of Europe and the European Commission.
I am active in the school my children attend and in organizations in which they participate. I served as Secretary to the Executive Committee of the Parents’ Association of Ruffing Montessori School for the 2003-2004 academic year. I have coached a t-ball team and assistant coached a soccer team in Solon.
I continue to revise my service objectives. In the future, I hope to take on more responsibilities as assistant director of Graduate Studies, participate in work of other college and university committees, and serve in leadership positions in the American Sociological Association and the Law and Society Association.