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Economic stress and the great recession in Ireland: polarization, individualization or ‘middle class squeeze’?

Author

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  • Bertrand Maître

    (Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin)

  • Helen Russell

    (Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin)

  • Christopher T Whelan

    (School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, Queen’s University Belfast & Geary Institute & School of Sociology, University College Dublin)

Abstract

Following an unprecedented boom that attracted the label ‘Celtic Tiger’, since 2008 Ireland has experienced the most severe economic and labour market crisis since the foundation of the State. The rapid deterioration in the labour market, alongside stringent austerity measures, had a widespread impact. Considerable debate persists as to where the heaviest burden has fallen. Conventional measures of income poverty and inequality have a limited capacity to capture the impact of the recession. This is exacerbated by a dramatic increase in the scale of debt problems. Our analysis, which focuses on economic stress, provides no evidence for individualization or class polarization. Instead we find that while economic stress level are highly stratified in class terms in both boom and bust periods, the changing impact of class is highly contingent on life course stage. The affluent income class remained largely insulated from the experience of economic stress, however, it saw its advantage relative to the income poor class decline at the earliest stage of the life-course and remain stable across the rest of the life course. At the other end of the hierarchy, the income poor class experienced a relative improvement in their situation in the earlier life course phase and no significant change at the later stages. For the remaining income classes life-course stage was even more important. At the earliest stage the precarious class experienced some improvement in its situation while the outcomes for the middle classes remain unchanged. In the mid-life course the precarious and lower middle classes experienced disproportionate increase in their stress levels while at the later life-cycle stage it is the combined middle classes that lost out. Additional effects over time relating to social class are restricted to the deteriorating situation of the petit bourgeoisie at the middle stage of the life-course. The pattern is clearly a good deal more complex that suggested by conventional notions of ‘middle class squeeze’ and points to the distinctive challenges relating to welfare and taxation policy faced by governments in the Great Recession.

Suggested Citation

  • Bertrand Maître & Helen Russell & Christopher T Whelan, 2014. "Economic stress and the great recession in Ireland: polarization, individualization or ‘middle class squeeze’?," Working Papers 201407, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucd:wpaper:201407
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Watson, Dorothy & Maitre, Bertrand & Russell, Helen, 2015. "Workplace Risks and Worker Outcomes in Ireland from a Comparative Perspective: An Analysis of the European Working Conditions Survey, 2005 and 2010," Research Series, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), number RS46.
    2. Dorothy Watson & Christopher T. Whelan & Bertrand Maitre & James Williams, 2016. "Socio-Economic Variation in the Impact of the Irish Recession on the Experience of Economic Stress among Families," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 47(4), pages 477-498.
    3. Gintare Mazeikaite & Cathal O’Donoghue & Denisa M. Sologon, 2019. "The Great Recession, financial strain and self-assessed health in Ireland," The European Journal of Health Economics, Springer;Deutsche Gesellschaft für Gesundheitsökonomie (DGGÖ), vol. 20(4), pages 579-596, June.
    4. Watson, Dorothy & Maitre, Bertrand & Whelan, Christopher T. & Russell, Helen, 2016. "Social Risk and Social Class Patterns in Poverty and Quality of Life in Ireland, 2004-2013," Research Series, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), number BKMNEXT328.
    5. Dorothy Watson & Christopher T. Whelan & Bertrand Maître & Helen Russell, 2018. "Social Class and Conversion Capacity: Deprivation Trends in the Great Recession in Ireland," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 140(2), pages 549-570, November.
    6. Christopher T. Whelan & Brian Nolan & Bertrand Maître, 2018. "Economic Stress and the Great Recession in Ireland: The Erosion of Social Class Advantage," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 49(3), pages 259-286.
    7. Jehane Simona-Moussa & Laura Ravazzini, 2019. "From One Recession to Another: Longitudinal Impacts on the Quality of Life of Vulnerable Groups," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 142(3), pages 1129-1152, April.
    8. Watson, Dorothy & Maître, Bertrand & Grotti, Raffaele & Whelan, Christopher T., 2018. "Poverty Dynamics of Social Risk Groups in the EU: an analysis of the EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions, 2005 to 2014," Research Series, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), number BKMNEXT345.
    9. Christopher T. Whelan & Brian Nolan & Bertrand Maítre, 2016. "The Great Recession and the Changing Distribution of Economic Stress across Income Classes and the Life Course in Ireland: A Comparative Perspective," Working Papers 201603, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
    10. Christopher T. Whelan & Brian Nolan & Bertrand Maitre, 2017. "Polarization or “Squeezed Middle” in the Great Recession?: A Comparative European Analysis of the Distribution of Economic Stress," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 133(1), pages 163-184, August.
    11. Alexakis, Christos & Pappas, Vasileios, 2018. "Sectoral dynamics of financial contagion in Europe - The cases of the recent crises episodes," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 222-239.
    12. Filippa Bono & Maria Francesca Cracolici & Miranda Cuffaro, 2017. "A Hierarchical Model for Analysing Consumption Patterns in Italy Before and During the Great Recession," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 134(2), pages 421-436, November.
    13. Callan, Tim & Regan, Mark & Savage, Michael & Walsh, John R, 2017. "Income distribution in Ireland: through recession, towards recovery," Papers BP2018/2, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
    14. Mari, Gabriele & Keizer, Renske, 2020. "Parental job loss and early child development in the Great Recession," SocArXiv 2596e, Center for Open Science.
    15. Dorothy Watson & Christopher T. Whelan & Bertrand Maître & James Williams, 2017. "Non-Monetary Indicators and Multiple Dimensions: The ESRI Approach to Poverty Measurement," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 48(4), pages 369-392.
    16. Sofia Iordanidou & Emmanouil Takas & Leonidas Vatikiotis & Pedro García, 2020. "Constructing Silence: Processes of Journalistic (Self-)Censorship during Memoranda in Greece, Cyprus, and Spain," Media and Communication, Cogitatio Press, vol. 8(1), pages 15-26.

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