"Survival strategies of households in poverty: The role of formal and informal support networks in times of economic crisis"
Since the global financial crisis, a considerable number of households in Catalonia is subsisting under the poverty threshold. Poverty research tends to focus on identifying the profiles of the most vulnerable segments and on tracking the development of poverty rates over time, but they do not usually analyze how people manage to survive situations of poverty. However, this analysis is essential in order to design and reinforce policies that can strengthen the roles of different types of support.
Although it is typically assumed that households in poverty rely on formal and informal systems of support, the current context in Catalonia (and Spain more in general) is characterized by two features: first, government support programs have been considerably reduced, and second, informal support networks of the poor have suffered a notable depletion and often they can no longer adequately provide adequate support.
For these reasons, we are conducting a research project (2016-2020) that has two goals:
1. First, it performs an in-depth analysis of the practices and strategies of survival and subsistence that are actually used by households in poverty in Catalonia. In particular, we analyze the sources of support (e.g., formal -state, public and private institutions- and informal support) and how this support changes as the situation of poverty perpetuates.
2. Second, we analyze the interaction between formal and informal support (i.e., both the influence of informal networks on the access and use of formal systems, and the way in which charitable and civic organizations help to strengthen informal networks).
To do so, we start off with a secondary analysis of three large, recent Spanish data bases about life conditions. Subsequently, we collect primary data with households under the poverty threshold using a research design that combines structured tools (informal network delineation and resource diaries) with semi-structured interviews and participant observation in the third sector in order to obtain both rigorous measurement and interpretative depth. Our interdisciplinary research team is composed of academic researchers and key representatives of the third sector. The project emphasizes the transfer of results and applied research.