The Crisis of the European Middle Class between Rising Inequalities and Spreading Insecurity: Empirical Evidence and Challenges for Welfare Policy
- Jason Beckfield (Harvard University, US)
- Costanzo Ranci (Polytechnic of Milan, Italy)
Structural long-term trends in the labour market, in the demographic composition of the population, and in welfare systems have profoundly altered the social stability of the middle class in European societies. Rising inequalities and social insecurity have been among the most visible effects of this phenomenon, while welfare protection has been reduced. As a consequence, not only is the middle class increasingly affected by insecurity, but basic social reproduction mechanisms are weakened in their functioning, to the point that long-term investments for intergenerational reproduction or social mobility are strongly reduced.
Interestingly, while in the US the crisis of the middle class has been the subject of huge research and public debate, social research about the European middle class remains limited. As a consequence, we know only a little about which segments of the European middle class are particularly affected by these changes, and how the European “fragile middle class” copes with instability. The aim of this stream is to collect studies and empirical research that have approached this issue, considering both social and policy trends that are related to the increased insecurity of the middle class.
The main questions addressed in the stream will be:
- What are the main social and economic trends contributing to insecure the European middle class, and how these trends are differently shaped in European countries?
- What empirical measures have been developed and proposed to investigate these new phenomena? What measures have been used and what are the main methodological and analytical problems still unsolved?
- What components of the middle class have been mainly affected by insecurity and inequality, and how these components vary from country to country within Europe?
- What has been the role played by welfare and fiscal policies in protecting people from insecurity? Can we identify different patterns within Europe? And what policies can contrast this trend?
〈 List of Stream Themes