The importance of context to the social processes around material hardship

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter

2 Scopus citations


Scholarly research into the causes and consequences of social stratification often conceptualize the stratification process as either resulting from individual choices regarding education, employment, or family formation, or as dominated by structural forces outside the individual’s control, such as the neoliberal market-oriented drive towards economic growth. While a focus on one side of the equation can increase our understanding of the stratification process while holding the other side of the equation constant, in reality both individual and structural factors are at play. Therefore, this chapter will examine the role of both individual and state-level factors in predicting household-level measures of well-being-food insufficiency, bill-paying hardships, and home hardships. While there is a growing literature describing the patterns and correlates of material hardship (Mayer and Jencks, 1989; Edin and Lein, 1997; Bauman, 1999; Boushey and Gundersen, 2001; Heflin, 2006), prior work has tended to focus on individual determinants of material hardship and largely ignored the role of the structure of the welfare state. This is surprising in light of the body of research indicating that state economic and policy characteristics are important determinants of risk for income poverty and, to some extent, food security. This chapter combines nationally representative data from five panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) on food insufficiency, bill-paying hardships, and home hardships to explore the extent to which observed variation in reports of material hardship is influenced by state-level economic conditions, social policy, political conditions, and the physical climate. Results suggest that food insufficiency, bill-paying hardships, and home hardships are sensitive to the context in which the household is embedded.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Poverty in the United States
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781317627401
ISBN (Print)9780415673440
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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