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Combating Poverty in Europe

Combating Poverty in Europe

Active Inclusion in a Multi-Level and Multi-Actor Context

Edited by Rune Halvorsen and Bjørn Hvinden

Discovering methods to combat poverty and social exclusion has now become a major political challenge in Europe. This book offers an original and timely analysis of how actors at the European, national and subnational levels meet this challenge. Combining perspectives on multilevel and network coordination, the editors discuss to what extent actors join forces in these efforts and identify the factors limiting the coordination achieved in practice. The book builds on a European study comparing Germany, Italy, Poland, Sweden and the UK.

Chapter 2: Who is poor? Linking perceptions of poor people and political responses to poverty

Bjørn Hvinden and Rune Halvorsen

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


An important strand of theory has argued that the ways in which representatives of governments perceive or ‘construct’ the target groups for public policy influence the policy agenda, the rationale that legitimates policy choices and the selection of policy instruments (Schneider and Ingram, 1993; Schneider and Sidney, 2009; Pierce et al., 2014). This kind of influence was illustrated in Chapter 1. To the extent that those in power in former times classified people as morally disreputable (undeserving poor), they met a harsher treatment than people perceived as innocent victims of circumstance (‘deserving poor’). In their original presentation of the theory, Schneider and Ingram (1993) distinguish between four ideal-type constructions of target populations, depending on whether policy-makers saw them primarily in positive or negative terms and whether policy-makers defined them as relatively strong or weak in terms of political resources.

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