Socio-Economic Variation in the Impact of the Irish Recession on the Experience of Economic Stress among Families

Dorothy Watson, Christopher T. Whelan, Bertrand Maitre, James Williams


In this paper we draw on the Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) data to examine the impact of pre-recession socio-economic characteristics on the economic stress levels of households with children. Our results provide some support for the polarisation argument, with the largest increases in absolute percentage point terms occurring towards the bottom of the socio-economic hierarchy. However, this was accompanied by sharp attenuation of socio economic inequalities in stress and a dramatic increase in the heterogeneity of economically stressed households. The analysis shows that the reality is more complex than either the “class polarisation” or “middle class squeeze” hypotheses would suggest. The results create a new set of challenges for policy that require a careful balancing of issues of legitimacy, the need to meet very broad-based needs for services and the more traditional targeted assistance to vulnerable groups.


recession; families; Ireland

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