Exploring Inequality in Europe

Exploring Inequality in Europe

Diverging Income and Employment Opportunities in the Crisis

Edited by Martin Heidenreich

Europe has become a dominant frame for the generation, regulation and perception of social inequalities. This trend was solidified by the current economic crisis, which is characterized by increasing inequalities between central and peripheral countries and groups. By analysing the double polarization between winners and losers of the crisis, the segmentation of labour markets and the perceived quality of life in Europe, this book contributes to a better understanding of patterns and dynamics of inequality in an integrated Europe.

Chapter 2: The Europeanization of income inequality before and during the eurozone crisis: inter-, supra- and transnational perspectives

Martin Heidenreich

Subjects: politics and public policy, european politics and policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, labour policy


Social inequalities can no longer be analysed only in a national context. They are increasingly generated, regulated and perceived at the European level. As a contribution to the emerging sociology of European integration, an international, a supranational and a transnational understanding of the Europeanization of income inequalities is discussed in this article. When Europe is conceived of as an international arena, the patterns and dynamics of inequalities within and between European countries are analysed. When the EU is conceived of as a supranational order, the impact of European decisions and regulations on national patterns of inequality and individual living situations come to the fore. When Europe is understood as a transnational social field, the attention is focused on the growing European interdependence of economic and social relations. Taking the example of income inequalities, the Europeanization of income inequality before and during the current eurozone crisis is analysed in these three perspectives on the basis of EU-SILC data for the period 2005–2012, using multi-level modelling. Firstly, it can be shown that the move towards increasing national income inequalities and the European-wide convergence of income levels has at least temporarily come to an halt. Secondly, national and regional patterns of income inequality are not only shaped by national and regional economic and labour market structures and national institutions, but also by the growing economic integration at the European level. Thirdly, the subjective perception of economic stress is not only evaluated in a national space but also in a transnational space. The perception of economic stress is not only shaped by individual living conditions and national contexts, but also by the transnational income position of the respondents. The European level thus contributes to a better understanding of the dynamics of within- and between-national inequality, of the determinants of inequality patterns and of the subjective perception of inequality.

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