Relative deprivation and subjective social position

Authored by: Anders Ejrnæs

Routledge International Handbook of Poverty

Print publication date:  October  2019
Online publication date:  September  2019

Print ISBN: 9780367178666
eBook ISBN: 9780429058103
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter introduces the concept of relative deprivation and social comparison theory in order to discuss the perceived or subjective experience of poverty and its consequences. First, the link between, on the one hand, monetary poverty and inequality, and on the other, the subjective experience of relative deprivation and social position is analysed. Then it is analysed how the subjective experience of relative deprivation influences both happiness and political participation in society. Through empirical analysis, the chapter shows how the societal context – especially economic inequality, welfare arrangements and quality of governance – has an impact, both on people’s subjective perception of their own position in society and on their perceptions of deprivation. It is argued that the reference group for comparison is no longer restricted to the inhabitants of the nation because people compare their living standard with the living standard in other nations and their own past and future living standard. The analysis is based on data from the European Social Survey (ESS) 2010, 2012 and 2016 and the International Survey Program 2015 and 2009.

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