Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

Economic Situation of Families and Perception of Social Reality Exploratory Analysis of Italian Families

Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

Economic Situation of Families and Perception of Social Reality Exploratory Analysis of Italian Families

Article excerpt


The economic situation of a family is an aspect that has a great influence on lifestyle and the way that the members of a household perceive social reality. Starting from an analysis of the economic situation of Italian families, this study focuses on the way that their members perceive certain elements of the social reality that they are part of, their future prospects and those of new generations. The application of correspondence analysis makes it possible to conduct simultaneous analysis of data regarding the social, economic and sociodemographic characteristics of families and their future aspirations and prospects within welfare systems. The results of the research, conducted using Eurobarometer data, confirm that socio-economic conditions have a significant influence on reading the relevant social reality through the level of institutional and interpersonal trust. Families show different levels of expectations with regard to the State and the market depending on their corresponding social profile.

Keywords: socio-economic perception.

1. The family: source of support and demands

As the current social and economic situation shows few signs of improvement, it is placing considerable strain on Italian families (or households), who are increasingly burdened with onerous tasks as a result of a welfare system that frequently withdraws its support.

Although the family is mainly considered in expressive terms in contemporary society, just like in modern society before it, economic factors still play a fundamental central role. The family is a significant economic "operator" as the household forms the basis for producing income, which is distributed among active and non-active members, young people, adults and the elderly. The family is not only a consumer but also a manager of household income that produces, redistributes among its members, spends and saves.

To support this statement, reference can be made not only to academic research but also to studies conducted by designated institutes such as ISTAT in Italy1. The Italian National Institute for Statistics analyses the situation of families by examining their structure and behaviour, together with lifestyles and economic conditions with details of income and consumption. It is the economic aspects of families that have reawakened the interest of researchers over the last few years2, presumably partly as a result of the ongoing economic crisis that has seriously affected families. The family is therefore a complex organisation undergoing constant transformation that produces goods and services both of a material and relational nature for its members, which enter the market outside the family sphere at the same time. However, it is also a consumer as it makes use of and consumes goods and services produced within it in material form or otherwise. However, in order to discharge its social duty, which can be summarised by the term "social reproduction" (Di Nicola 2008), the family activates exchange relationships with the market (salary in exchange for work) and the welfare state (taxes in exchange for services such as education and health).

Although family types are seen to be complex and are structured in different ways (Di Nicola 2008), it is useful to remember that, in addition to its expressive and economic aspects, the family plays the important role of administrating the services that are produced within it. These are resources such as providing care and housework done by women, which are not included in GDP calculations; as Alesina and Ichino highlighted (2009), this is essentially a hidden resource available to Italian families that allows them to maintain a high standard of living despite having lower salaries than in other European countries. This invisible resource enables these families to adopt an independent position with regard to the market as far as possible.

Most studies in literature3 on the subject of the economic characteristics of the family focus in particular on the aspect of consumption, which is also easy to measure. …

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