Economic Insecurity and Social Stratification

Posted: 16 Jul 2012

See all articles by Bruce Western

Bruce Western

Harvard University - Department of Sociology; Princeton University - Department of Sociology; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Deirdre Bloome

Harvard University - Department of Sociology

Benjamin Sosnaud

Harvard University - Department of Sociology

Laura Tach

Harvard University - Department of Sociology

Date Written: August 2012

Abstract

Economic insecurity describes the risk of economic loss faced by workers and households as they encounter the unpredictable events of social life. Our review suggests a four-part framework for studying the distribution and trends in these economic risks. First, a focus on households rather than workers captures the microlevel risk pooling that can smooth income flows and stabilize economic well-being. Second, insecurity is related to income volatility and the risk of downward mobility into poverty. Third, adverse events such as unemployment, family dissolution, or poor health commonly trigger income losses. Fourth, the effects of adverse events are mitigated by insurance relationships provided by government programs, employer benefits, and the informal support of families. Empirical research in these areas reveals high levels of economic insecurity among low-income households and suggests an increase in economic insecurity with the growth in economic inequality in the United States.

Suggested Citation

Western, Bruce and Bloome, Deirdre and Sosnaud, Benjamin and Tach, Laura, Economic Insecurity and Social Stratification (August 2012). Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 38, pp. 341-359, 2012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2106278 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-soc-071811-145434

Bruce Western (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Sociology ( email )

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Princeton University - Department of Sociology ( email )

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Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

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Deirdre Bloome

Harvard University - Department of Sociology

33 Kirkland Street
William James Hall, Sixth Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Benjamin Sosnaud

Harvard University - Department of Sociology

33 Kirkland Street
William James Hall, Sixth Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Laura Tach

Harvard University - Department of Sociology ( email )

33 Kirkland Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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