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A Comparative Perspective of Precarious Living Conditions: Subjective Determinants of Household Strategies in Four Countries
Project responsable Monica Budowski
   
Project partner Christian Suter
Peter Farago
   
Abstract Recent research concludes that in Western countries more people than expected move into and out of poverty and constitute a fluctuating population group in precarious living conditions and vulnerable to poverty. These developments have commonalities with situations in 'less developed' countries, where social welfare is less institutionalized and its provision level lower. Research in Western countries suggests that some people deal better with this situation than others. It further suggests that a certain degree of 'stability' (temporal, social, financial, material, and personal) regarding structural opportunities perceived to plan life is important; furthermore personal and household assets are required to conceive household strategies and deal with risk. This research addresses the following questions: how do people in precarious living conditions deal with their situation? What objective and subjective factors influence their household strategies? Do these factors vary according to different levels of social security, the opportunities on the labour market and the household situations? The countries studied-Switzerland, Spain, Costa Rica and Chile-differ according to level of welfare, combinations of labour market structure (formal and informal economy) and the importance of family ties and social networks. The study builds on information about perceptions and interpretations of individuals of approx. 75 households in Switzerland and 25 households in the other three countries gathered by means of qualitative in-depth interviews in cooperation with the partner universities Universidad Pública de Navarra, Spain, Universidad Católica de Temuco, Chile and Universidad de Costa Rica, Costa Rica. The sampled households are in similar situations of financial precariousness around or just above the poverty line. Change on the households' perspectives of their situation is captured by the two-wave-design over a twelve to fifteen-month period of time. The project aims at obtaining a profound insight into theoretical elements important for conceiving individual and household strategies and identifying their influencing factors. The innovative aspects and originality of the study are: (i) the specific population group ('precarious prosperity'), (ii) the systematic assessment of subjective perceptions and interpretations of socio-structural situations, (iii) the role of informal social networks in dealing with detrimental events within different country-level opportunity structures, (iv) the gender and household perspective (v) the methodological approach (comparative, qualitative and two-waves).
   
Keywords precariousness, poverty, gender, vulnerability, household strategies, precarious prosperity, social inequality, comparative research, qualitative research
   
Project homepage http://p3.snf.ch/project-116605
   
Type of project Fundamental research project
Research area Sociologie
Method of financing FNS
Status Completed
Start of project 1-10-2007
End of project 30-9-2011
Contact Christian Suter