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The Social Stratification of Social Risks: Class and Responsibility in the 'New' Welfare State

  • Olivier Pintelon

    (Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp)

  • Bea Cantillon

    (Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp)

  • Karel Van den Bosch

    (Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp)

  • Christopher T. Whelan

    (School of Sociology & Geary Institute, University College Dublin)

Welfare states are said to have evolved over the course of the past twenty years towards a ‘social investment’ model of welfare, characterised by a focus on equality of opportunity and upward social mobility combined with greater emphasis on individual responsibility. More or less concurrently, under the mantra of ‘individualisation’, scepticism has grown with regard to the relevance of traditional stratification schemes. This paper sets out to ascertain whether social class, i.e. intergenerational background, (still) affects the occurrence of ‘social risks’. Using SILC 2005 data, it considers the impact of social class (of origin) on a relevant selection of social risks: unemployment, ill-health, living in a jobless household, single parenthood, temporary employment, and low-paid employment. The results provide clear evidence of a continuing influence of social class. On this basis, we argue that a one-sided focus on individual responsibility could open the door to new forms of marginalisation.

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Paper provided by Geary Institute, University College Dublin in its series Working Papers with number 201123.

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Length: 23 pages
Date of creation: 19 Sep 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ucd:wpaper:201123
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  1. Christopher T. Whelan & Bertrand Maitre, 2008. "'New' and 'Old' Social Risks: Life Cycle and Social Class Perspectives on Social Exclusion in Ireland," Papers WP226, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
  2. Joris Ghysels & Wim Van Lancker, 2010. "The unequal benefits of family activation: an analysis of the social distribution of family policy among families with young children," Working Papers 1008, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
  3. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 1994. "International Differences in Male Wage Inequality: Institutions versus Market Forces," NBER Working Papers 4678, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. O'Neill, Donal & Sweetman, Olive, 1998. "Intergenerational Mobility in Britain: Evidence from Unemployment Patterns," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 60(4), pages 431-47, November.
  5. Robert Erikson & John H. Goldthorpe, 2002. "Intergenerational Inequality: A Sociological Perspective," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 31-44, Summer.
  6. Wiemer Salverda & Ken Mayhew, 2009. "Capitalist economies and wage inequality," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(1), pages 126-154, Spring.
  7. Bolam, Bruce & Murphy, Simon & Gleeson, Kate, 2004. "Individualisation and inequalities in health: a qualitative study of class identity and health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 59(7), pages 1355-1365, October.
  8. Caroline Dewilde, 2008. "Individual and institutional determinants of multidimensional poverty: A European comparison," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 86(2), pages 233-256, April.
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