Material deprivation linked to economic stress

Basic deprivation is the key dimension associated with economic stress, according to a study funded by the European Commission.

Researchers examined the relationship between material deprivation and economic stress in European countries, using data from the 2009 European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC). Stress was measured by reference to how difficult households felt it was to make ends meet.

Key findings

  • Basic deprivation is the key dimension associated with economic stress rather than national levels of income and income inequality.
  • The stressful consequences of basic deprivation are exacerbated where inequality in a given country is lower rather than higher – contrary to the researchers’ expectations.
  • In other words, the impact of deprivation seems to be worse where such deprivation is viewed as avoidable.

The researchers highlight the danger of allowing between-country differences to obscure the continuing importance of national standards and reference points when measuring economic stress. This has particular implications for the ‘Europeanisation’ of reference groups, under which deprivation is assumed to have a uniform effect across countries.

Source: Christopher Whelan and Bertrand Maître, Material Deprivation, Economic Stress and Reference Groups in Europe: An Analysis of EU-SILC 2009, Discussion Paper 36, GINI Project (European Commission)
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