Dealing with Uncertainty in Precarious Prosperity: Adaption As a Strategy to Improve the Quality of Life

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 46 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Rebekka SIEBER, University of Neuchâtel, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
This paper investigates a specific social position, defined as adjacent or slightly above a relative poverty line: precarious prosperity. Households in precarious prosperity are usually not a target group of the welfare state, even though they often face uncertainties and struggle to maintain or improve their socio-economic position. Despite these (objectively seen) difficulties, we found households with a good perceived quality of life in previous research: the studies on Romania, Spain and Switzerland point on strategies of adaption as elements to explain the subjective-well being and the perceived quality of life of these households. It is these processes of adaption that are the focus of the present study.

Firstly, this study seeks to understand, how strategies like "doing" or "adapting" emerge. Secondly, how uncertainty is handled by adaption when linked to precarious prosperity is examined in depth. Three waves of qualitative interviews in 50 households in Switzerland allow for a longitudinal analysis of adaption in precarious prosperity. The analysis is guided by a theoretical framework that takes into account the opportunity structures of the welfare state, the labour market, the community and the family as well as the household members' perception and evaluation of its living conditions and resources (scope of agency). Considering the perceived scope of agency as link between opportunity structures and household strategies helps to understand differences in agency among households in the same socio-economic position. When action does not seem possible to improve quality of life, adaption comes to the fore. Processes like reframing, hope or resignation lead to this adaption, depending on the household situation. Results show further, that those households that develop several strategies in parallel (doing and adapting) perceive the best quality of life.