Brian Gran


Mather Memorial Building 224

Brian K. Gran is a professor on the faculty of the sociology department, with a secondary appointment with the School of Law. As a Fulbright Scholar, Gran conducted research on Iceland’s independent children’s rights institution and visited the Law School of Reykjavik University where he taught a course on children’s rights and social policy.

Gran co-edited The Handbook of Sociology and Human Rights (with David Brunsma and Keri Iyall Smith, Paradigm, 2013). As a member of the council of the Science and Human Rights Program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in January Gran served on a panel on a child’s right to benefits from scientific progress and its application (REBSPA). Gran is completing an NSF-sponsored project that has developed the Children’s Rights Index.

This summer Gran and two students will publish an article on children’s REBSPA in The International Journal of Children’s Rights (Gran, Waltz, and Renzhofer, July 2013). At the United Nations, Gran recently participated in a discussion on human rights indicators sponsored by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights. He is a Research Affiliate of the Joint Center for Poverty Research of Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.

Gran was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar in Health Policy Research at Yale University. His interests include comparative social policy, political sociology, sociology of law, and methodology.



I direct two projects on children’s rights, both of which share similar goals. The first goal is to develop an international measure, as well as a U.S. measure, of children’s formal rights. The second goal is to identify factors that promote or hinder children’s rights. With support of the U.S. National Science Foundation, this project is developing the Children’s Rights Index, an international measure of children’s rights for the time points of 2009, 2004, 1999, 1994, 1989, and 1984. We are developing a parallel measure for the 59 U.S. states, district, and territories. This work asks if children who live in more ethnically diverse and religiously diverse countries, or states, have fewer rights, and whether independent children’s rights institutions positively influence children’s rights.

We know that a country’s internal conditions, such as the strength of democracy, and conditions external to the country, including pressures from international nongovernmental organizations, can promote and hinder its human rights laws. Do internal and external influences on human rights have similar effects on children’s rights? How do ethnic diversity and religious diversity affect children’s rights? Do independent children’s rights institutions promote children’s rights? In addition to providing evidence to governments and international nongovernmental organizations, including the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Children’s Rights Index can be used to evaluate if stronger rights are associated with superior outcomes for children. The proposed project will disseminate its results and databases widely.

I direct projects that examine young people’s vulnerability at the boundaries of public and private spheres. One project focuses on involuntary servitude, including trafficking, of young people. This project approaches young people’s involuntary servitude as complex and changing. The ambition of this project is to understand how global factors influence local conditions that shape young people’s involuntary servitude. It examines how governments prosecute, protect, and prevent involuntary servitude of young people. A related project asks whatvulnerabilities young people experience at public-private boundaries, and how laws may be used to overcome those vulnerabilities.

I am completing a study of independent children’s rights institutions (ICRIs), such as children’s ombudspersons and children’s commissioners. ICRIs typically have a mandate to bring about changes in society to improve respect for children’s rights. Their work may include influencing policy, raising public awareness of children’s rights, and providing advice. In some countries they also have a mandate to investigate violations of individual children’s rights. With Professors Nigel Thomas and Karl Hanson, I have co-organized and –direct the Research Group on Ombudspersons for Children (RGOC). Focusing on the European context for now, the RGOC seeks to understand how organizational structures of ICRIs shape their efforts to advance children’s rights. I recently enjoyed support as a Fulbright Scholar while conducting a case study of Iceland’s Office of the Children’s Ombudsperson.

Maria Schmeeckle and I are establishing the Worldwide Outlook for Children (WOC), a web resource of information and indicators of young people’s wellbeing, rights, and interests. WOC will be available to those who seek to identify, understand consequences of, and explain sources of young people experience. WOC will be a web resource designed for use by everyone, from scholars to policy makers to young people, and will be available in multiple languages.



Since joining the Case faculty, I have prepared six courses: An Introduction to Sociology (Soci 101), Research Methods (Soci 303), Sociology of Law (Soci 360), Law and the Public-Private Dichotomy (Soci 355/455), Sociology of Health Policy (Soci 365/465), and Sociology of Children’s Rights and Social Policies. 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 373/474) 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.

A course I recently taught is Sociology of Children’s Rights and Social Policy (Soci 355/455), which has the objective of discussing what children’s rights are, what these rights can do, who and what are involved in their implementation, and whether alternatives to rights are superior. Course participants took a close look at kinds of children’s civil, political, social, economic, and participation rights. After examining a range of  children’s rights treaties, we discussed whether and how those treaties are implemented. Course participants considered international organizations involved in children’s rights, such as UNICEF and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. We then turned to national institutions that strive to implement children’s rights, such as nongovernmental organizations and ICRIs. We concluded the course by discussing whether alternatives to rights will do better at improving children’s well being. An important feature of this course was its distance-learning component. For information, please visit:

Last spring I enjoyed the chance to teach a course on children’s rights to a group of talented and earnest graduate students of the Law School of Reykjavik University. This experience has changed my approach to teaching and learning. This spring I will teach a new course on comparative-historical sociology. I look forward to sharing ideas about Boolean algebra and fuzzy sets.

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 has been as Director of Graduate Studies. I currently serve as an undergraduate advisor, as well as SAGES advisor.

My primary service to the College is membership on its Strategic Planning Steering Committee.  I also serve on its Budget Subcommittee.

My service to the University is tied to research centers and the secondary appointment I hold with the Law School. I am a Faculty Associate of the Schubert Center for Child Policy and Development, 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. 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 serve in different leadership positions for academic organizations. I recently became President of the Thematic Group on Human Rights and Global Justice (TG03) of the International Sociology Association.  As President, my aim is to build TG03 and strengthen its international membership so that we play a greater role within the International Sociology Association as well as in international civil society.

With the American Association for the Advancement of Science, I serve on the Steering Committee and the Council of the Coalition on Science and Human Rights. I am a member of its Service to the Scientific Community Working Group, a member of its Welfare of Scientists Working Group, and Co-chair of its Article 15 and Welfare of Scientists Working Group.

I am a co-founder of the ASA Section on Human Rights and currently serve on its Council. I serve in other positions of other ASA sections. I am the organizer of the Law and Society Association’s Collaborative Research Network on Law and the Public-Private Dichotomy. I serve as referee for a variety of academic presses and journals, including the American Sociological Review, as well as grant-making agencies, such as the U.S. National Science Foundation.

I am active in the schools my children attend and in organizations in which they participate. I serve as Vice President of the Parents’ Association of Ruffing Montessori School and am a member of the Board of the St. Edward High School International Baccalaureate Programme Parent Association. I have coached a t-ball team, assistant coached soccer teams in Solon and at Ruffing Montessori School, and assistant coached Ruffing’s volleyball team.



Vikingar Elska Mayonaise – Experiences of an Iceland Fulbright Scholar

The Vulnerabilities of Young People: Going Beyond the Public-Private Dichotomy (forthcoming)

The Handbook of Sociology and Human Rights

Le rôle particulier des ombudsmans, interfaces entre les systèmes nationaux et internationaux de dèfense des droits de l’homme

Part III: Vulnerability and Human Rights, Children’s Rights

Comparing Children’s Rights: Introducing the Children’s Rights Index

The Roles of Independent Children’s Rights Institutions in Implementing the CRC


 Recent Publications

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