Corrosive disadvantages and Intersectionality: empirical evidence on multidimensional inequality across youth in Europe

Chiappero, Enrica; Peruzzi, Agnese; Spreafico, Alberta (2014). 'Corrosive disadvantages and Intersectionality: empirical evidence on multidimensional inequality across youth in Europe' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

The latest economic crisis revealed that the costs of negative downturns can generate and intensify social and economic polarization, with the most vulnerable groups also being those at higher risk of severe disadvantage and social exclusion. In many European Countries, youth have been severely affected by the negative consequences of the economic crisis in terms of lack of opportunities and prospects. The dramatic figures on youth unemployment rates in Southern European countries, the increasing number of NEETs and of early school leavers and the lack of voice and agency for youth in the political and social arenas indicate a growing and harmful marginalization of young people.


This paper aims to empirically investigate multidimensional inequality across youth in a set of European countries before and during the crisis, using EUSILC micro-level data integrated by other European data sources. Three interrelated dimensions, which play a major role in youth well-being, are considered, namely: education, employment and participation (social and political).


Two main concepts drive our empirical investigation. The former is the notion of corrosive disadvantage, suggested by Wolff and De-Shalit (2007), which is used to investigate why and how patterns of disadvantage origin and persist over time and which functionings can lead to improvements in other functionings (i.e. 'fertile functionings'). On this basis, the three dimensions are examined in order to understand how they correlate with each other in different European countries. While interconnections between employment and education have been extensively investigated in literature, the inclusion of social and political participation and the interrelation among these three spheres is relatively novel and can offer new, important insights for a multidimensional analysis of youth inequality and well-being. 

The second grounding concept is that of intersectionality. The latter refers to the idea that multiple individual characteristics interrelate and, depending on the context, a characteristic can either generate advantages or disadvantages. Thus, acknowledging the importance of the setting one lives in, the empirical analysis includes information at the macro-regional level, allows us to control for relevant contextual factors. Further conditions that are exogenous to the individual, as parental socio-economic status and educational attainment, are also accounted for and youngsters grouped according to similar circumstances. On this basis, an inequality analysis by homogenous groups allows us to work towards measuring (in)equality of opportunities over (in)equality of outcomes.


Finally, with the longitudinal perspective adopted, the paper contributes to provide evidence on how and to what extent the crisis has affected youth's opportunities over time, across key dimensions of well-being and across the different European countries. By means of cluster analysis, we ultimately identify national and sub-national groups of European regions in which youth have been homogeneously hit by the global economic crisis.

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