Romanian Households Dealing with Precariousness: A life-course approach

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Series Details Vol.17, No.4, September 2015, p513-534
Publication Date September 2015
ISSN 1461-6696
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This paper addresses the main pathways through which households avoid slipping into poverty in Romania by employing a life-course approach. Recent researches on social stratification found that in every country we can delineate a particular social layer composed of households living just above the poverty threshold, whose members struggle to reach a more secure prosperity while facing constant threats of downward mobility. Drawing on recent precarious prosperity research, and based on in-depth interviews carried out in 2013 with 25 households situated in between poverty and prosperity from a Romanian city (Cluj-Napoca), we use a life-course approach in order to account for the main routes into precarious decency of our sampled cases. We found evidence that opportunities for agency in order to overcome precariousness are contingent on household's type, its gender composition and members’ interlocking life trajectories. Life-course approach allows us to understand household situation in time perspective and to account for the influence of changing structural context framing individuals’ life-course patterns. At the same time, individuals’ life courses are increasingly de-standardised within the current post-communist context. The transition from state planned to market economy, coupled with the minimalistic welfare state, and with the low social and institutional trust altering the solidarity of communities are joint factors leading to declining opportunities to rely on other resources than those provided by household members. Interviewed households vary according to their composition, history and assets, further affecting the odds of slipping into poverty. Therefore, our paper raises concerns for policy-makers.

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