Brian Gran


Mather Memorial Building 224

Other Information

Education: Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research, Yale University, 1997-1999
Ph.D. Sociology, Northwestern University, 1997

My research, teaching, and service concentrate on how we use rights as means by which to improve well-being. Rights are viewed as tools useful to enhancing welfare, reducing marginalization, and advancing equality. My research program takes an international perspective to investigate what institutions and structures facilitate, and obstruct, agency when it comes to using rights to improve outcomes, reduce disparities, and advance social policies. Given the widespread importance of rights, as well as their universal and inalienable qualities, 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.



Human Rights and Societal Resilience?: This study is undertaking 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.

International Survey of Human Rights: There is a significant need to ascertain individuals’ beliefs, opinions, attitudes, and experiences with human rights from a comparative perspective. 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.

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. Mark Frezzo and I are authoring The Human Right to Science (under contract). I am preparing journal manuscripts regarding measures of the human right to science as multiple causal configurations of the human right to science across the world.

Extended working lives: I continue to contribute to studies of the welfare state and social policy through studies of the public-private dichotomy. In collaboration with Debi Street and Áine Ní Léime, this international study seeks to identify catalysts and obstacles to extended working lives, particularly health disparities and policies, public and private.

Parental leave policies: With Karie Feldman of Case Western, 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.

Right to science and spinal cord injuries: Kimberly Anderson, Case Western Professor Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Anne Bryden, a Case Western doctoral student, and I are undertaking a qualitative study of how people with spinal cord injuries (SCI) and their families experience recovery and how their experiences shape priorities and interests in clinical trials and other interventions.

Transportation and Exercising Rights to Health Care: Access to transportation should not be a pre-requisite to receiving appropriate health care. Cory Cronin of Ohio University and I are exploring what steps need to be taken to improve knowledge of and access to transportation in rural areas and whether that improved access can contribute to better health care utilization.


Teaching Interests

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.




I have been invited to speak with the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Science and 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 am honored to serve as a member of the 2019 Program Committee of the American Sociological Association, as well as 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.

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