Goedemé, T., Storms, B., Stockman, S., Penne, T., and Van den Bosch, K. "Towards Cross-country Comparable Reference Budgets in Europe: First Results of a Concerted Effort," European Journal of Social Security (EJSS), 17(2005): 3-31

In Europe, reference budgets are increasingly recognised as a helpful tool for policy making and monitoring. If developed in a cross-country comparable way, reference budgets could, in addition, prove to be useful for cross-national learning and contextualising the EU social indicators. However, current reference budgets are not comparable across countries. In this article we report on the first results of a concerted effort to construct comparable reference budgets for adequate social participation in Antwerp, Athens, Barcelona, Budapest, Helsinki and Milan. We start from a single theoretical and methodological framework and carefully track differences in institutional settings, climate, culture, and the availability and prices of goods and services that justify cross-country variations in the contents and levels of reference budgets. Results indicate that adequate social participation requires access to different goods and services in the six cities, but that, at the same time, the needs to be fulfilled are rather similar, such that the variation in the level of reference budgets is less than what would be expected on the basis of differences in median household incomes. Results also show that constructing comparable reference budgets requires substantial and intensive coordination. We suggest directions in which our approach to their construction could be improved.