Malcolm Brynin, 1949-2020

Tributes paid to sociologist whose ‘influential work’ on inequalities has proved crucial in understanding and addressing today’s sharp ‘social divisions’

July 23, 2020

A leading academic expert on gender and ethnic pay gaps in the UK has died.

Malcolm Brynin was born in London in 1949 and attended Brighton, Hove and Sussex Grammar School. He worked as an accounts clerk for the North Thames Gas Board and an executive officer in the Department of Trade and Industry before completing an external degree in sociology from the University of London (1976). He followed this up with a master’s at the University of Reading (1977) and later a PhD in social science at what is now City, University of London (1983).

While also taking on teaching roles, Dr Brynin served as a research fellow at City (1983-84) and then at the University of Leeds’ Centre for Television Research (1985-89). Following this, he joined the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex for the rest of his life, from 2000 as reader as well as principal research officer. By the time of his death he was its longest-serving member of staff.

Already adept at fieldwork and statistical analysis, Dr Brynin was brought in to the newly created ISER to develop the British Household Panel Survey, which was designed to follow a representative sample of individuals over a period of years. He went on to study the impact of new communications technologies through survey-based research carried out for British Telecom and a cross-national project funded by the European Union.

Deeply committed to social justice, Dr Brynin also devoted much of his work to examining and trying to redress various forms of inequality. He analysed differential outcomes from participation in higher education and delivered a keynote speech about workplace inequalities suffered by people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. As recently as 2017, he published reports on both The Gender Pay Gap and (with Simonetta Longhi) and The Ethnicity Pay Gap for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which praised his work for “providing a strong evidence base to inform our policy recommendations” to the government.

Heather Laurie, former director of the ISER, described Dr Brynin as “an accomplished quantitative sociologist. His lifelong interest was in understanding social stratification and social inequalities and the impact these had on people’s life chances. In particular, he produced influential work on inequalities of gender, ethnicity and religion, social divisions which are today more relevant than ever before.”

Outside his academic field, Dr Brynin was a lively conversationalist with wide-ranging interests in everything from opera to medieval church architecture. He died of cancer on 26 June and is survived by his wife Terri Lappin.

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