Attributions for poverty in Post-Socialist Countries

Sixth Joint IOS/APB/EACES Summer Academy:
Poverty, Social Exclusion, and Income Inequality Dynamics in Central and Eastern Europe.
June 4 to 6, 2014

Markus Kainu
Researcher, University of Turku & Aleksanteri institute, University of Helsinki, Finland
Mikko Niemelä
Research professor, Social Insurance Institution, Finland

Project page:

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My research

I’m a quantitatively orientated social scientist specialized in poverty and inequalities in post-socialist space, and in open source software carpentry

Social policy research

  • Ongoing PhD project: Poverty, place and income redistribution - Analysis of poverty dynamics in post-socialist transition"
  • teacher in social policy at the department of social research in University of Turku, Finland
  • researcher at the Aleksanteri institute

Software carpentry

Purpose of the study

1. Cross-national differences

To what extent there are cross-national differences in attributions for poverty in post-socialist countries?

2. Determinants

Can perceptions be attributed to certain contextual and individual level factors?

  1. Individual level: specific risks related to household financial circumstances
  2. Contextual level: goodness of the government, human development and changes in national economy

Welfare attitudes vs. welfare state policies

Causation between attitutes and policies is believed to exist in both directions:

  1. Welfare attitudes constrain the decision making and institutional change by limiting the range of programs perceived acceptable
  2. Type of welfare policy affects the welfare attitudes
    • in countries with more marginal and less generous welfare programmes, explanations of poverty are more often based on individual morality
    • in the Continental and Nordic welfare states external and structural explanations prevail

Different types of explanations

Source: van Oorschot and Halman (2000)


Cross-national differences

  • Difference between post-socialist and West of Europe
  • Large variation within post-socialist regime

Individual level determinants:

  • Self-interest approach: to what extent risk factors related to financial hardship are associated with perceptions of the causes of poverty

Contextual level determinants:

  • Differencies in socio-economic conditions and in governance
    1. economic performance during the period of global financial crises
    2. human development
    3. goodness of government


Life in Transition Survey - 2nd round (LiTS2)

  • collected in late 2010 in 34 countries and 39000 households
  • assess public attitudes, well-being and the impacts of economic and political change at the household level
  • special emphasis on how lives have been affected by the global economic crisis and its aftermath
  • …with contextual level data from World Bank (derived from Quality of Government -data)

21 Post-Socialist and 5 Western European countries