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The political economy of poverty in the 'glocal' context: A multilevel cross-national study

Dissertation
Author: Philip Young P. Hong
Abstract:
The purpose of this study is to examine the extent to which socio-politico-economic factors at the structural level impact individual poverty across 17 developed countries in a period of welfare state retrenchment and growing international interconnectedness. This dissertation contributes to a newly developing body of knowledge on cross-national comparison of individual poverty using multilevel analyses. This method allows for modeling various determinants of poverty (variables with different units of analysis at both individual and structural levels) together in a single analysis. The OECD and Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) data were used to conduct a cross-national comparative analysis of 17 affluent economies. The LIS is a cross-national data archive, one of the best harmonized database sources for comparative studies on poverty and income distribution. In order to examine the variations in poverty among individuals in advanced welfare states, 17 countries were selected from LIS Wave 5 (around year 2000). Focusing on labor market active age group (between 18 and 65 years of age), merging of the data for these countries yielded roughly 120,838 working-age individuals in the sample. Analyses leading up to the multilevel approach examined the variations of social welfare effort among 110 countries by their socio-economic and political development, poverty at the aggregate level in a series of bivariate analyses of 17 affluent economies, and the local perspective of individual poverty in the United States. Social welfare effort cross-nationally is found to be conditioned primarily by the socio-economic determinants in the larger global context. Globalization and politics play a more significant positive role on social welfare effort among the advanced democracies. Globalization also has a positive effect on politics. While globalization does not have a direct effect on aggregate poverty, politics and social welfare effort have significant effects. Local determinants of poverty show that human capital and demographic variables significantly affect poverty, but with differential effects of human capital for the poor compared to the near poor. The multilevel analyses provide a glocal perspective on explaining individual poverty. Results indicate that individuals who reside in countries with higher degree of globalization and greater left political power are less likely to be poor. Plus, those residing in countries with higher welfare state generosity and active labor market policies are less likely to be poor. Controlling for individual level demographic and human capital variables, the global and nation level structural variables were found to be significant. Individual poverty is affected by: (1) globalization; (2) politics [representation of the poor; cumulative left party power; and union density]; and (3) social welfare commitment [welfare generosity; active labor market policies; and public educational expenditure]. Implications for U.S. poverty and glocalization strategies to tackle structural poverty are discussed.

vi Table of Contents

Acknowledgements ..................................................................................................... i

Table of Contents ....................................................................................................... vi

Abstract of the Dissertation ................................................................................. vii

List of Tables..................................................................................................................x

List of Figures ............................................................................................................. xi

Chapter 1. Introduction ...........................................................................................1

1.1. Problem Issue and Purpose ......................................................................2

1.2. Significance of the Issue ............................................................................3

1.3. Global vs. Local in the World-System ....................................................8

1.4. Plan of the Dissertation ..........................................................................19

Chapter 2. Global Perspective I: Welfare State Generosity ...................26

2.1. Traditional Perspectives in Comparative Welfare State .................27

2.2. Traditional Comparative Cross-National Analysis...........................36

2.3. Critique of the Traditional Approach ...................................................48

2.4. Comparison of Welfare States in the Global Context .......................51

Chapter 3. Global Perspective II: Welfare States and Poverty .............64

3.1. Poverty in the Global Context................................................................65

3.2. Effects of Globalization and Politics on Poverty ................................75

3.3. Effect of Welfare State Commitment on Poverty ..............................79

3.4. Effects of Other Politico-Socio-Economic Variables on Poverty .....87

Chapter 4. Local Perspective: Poverty in the U.S. .....................................91

4.1. Human Capital, Social Exclusion, and Poverty in the U.S. ............91

4.2. Analyses of Human Capital and Poverty ............................................97

4.3. Differential Effects of Human Capital on the Poor .........................113

Chapter 5. Glocal Perspective: Poverty among Welfare States ..........121

5.1. Structural Vulnerability Thesis ..........................................................121

5.2. Multilevel Analysis of Poverty Status................................................122

5.3. Poverty in Western Welfare States ....................................................132

Chapter 6. Implications for U.S. Poverty .....................................................138

6.1. Structurally Dependent Political System .........................................140

6.2. Structural Dependence of Public Will ................................................154

6.3. Glocalizing Strategies to Combat Structural Poverty ....................160

Chapter 7. Conclusion ..........................................................................................173

References ..................................................................................................................179

vii Abstract of the Dissertation The Political Economy of Poverty in the ‘Glocal’ Context: A Multilevel Cross-National Study

by Philip Young P. Hong

Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science University of Missouri—St. Louis, 2010 Professor Kenneth P. Thomas, Chair

The purpose of this study is to examine the extent to which socio- politico-economic factors at the structural level impact individual poverty across 17 developed countries in a period of welfare state retrenchment and growing international interconnectedness. This dissertation contributes to a newly developing body of knowledge on cross-national comparison of individual poverty using multilevel analyses. This method allows for modeling various determinants of poverty (variables with different units of analysis at both individual and structural levels) together in a single analysis. The OECD and Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) data were used to conduct a cross-national comparative analysis of 17 affluent economies. The LIS is a cross-national data archive, one of the best harmonized database sources for comparative studies on poverty and income distribution. In order to examine the variations in poverty among individuals in advanced welfare states, 17 countries were selected from LIS Wave 5 (around year 2000).

viii Focusing on labor market active age group (between 18 and 65 years of age), merging of the data for these countries yielded roughly 120,838 working-age individuals in the sample. Analyses leading up to the multilevel approach examined the variations of social welfare effort among 110 countries by their socio-economic and political development, poverty at the aggregate level in a series of bivariate analyses of 17 affluent economies, and the local perspective of individual poverty in the United States. Social welfare effort cross-nationally is found to be conditioned primarily by the socio-economic determinants in the larger global context. Globalization and politics play a more significant positive role on social welfare effort among the advanced democracies. Globalization also has a positive effect on politics. While globalization does not have a direct effect on aggregate poverty, politics and social welfare effort have significant effects. Local determinants of poverty show that human capital and demographic variables significantly affect poverty, but with differential effects of human capital for the poor compared to the near poor. The multilevel analyses provide a glocal perspective on explaining individual poverty. Results indicate that individuals who reside in countries with higher degree of globalization and greater left political power are less likely to be poor. Plus, those residing in countries with higher welfare state generosity and active labor market policies are less likely to be poor.

ix Controlling for individual level demographic and human capital variables, the global and nation level structural variables were found to be significant. Individual poverty is affected by: (1) globalization; (2) politics [representation of the poor; cumulative left party power; and union density]; and (3) social welfare commitment [welfare generosity; active labor market policies; and public educational expenditure]. Implications for U.S. poverty and glocalization strategies to tackle structural poverty are discussed.

x List of Tables

Table 2.1: Descriptive summary of variables .........................................................42

Table 2.2: Multivariate Regression Analyses of Welfare Effort ........................46

Table 2.3: Description of Globalization, Left Party Power, Service Workforce, and Welfare Generosity .....................................................61

Table 2.4: Bivariate Regression Analyses ...............................................................62

Table 3.1: Country-level characteristics from OECD (around year 2000).......72

Table 3.2: Country-level characteristics from OECD (around year 2000).......73

Table 3.3: Descriptive statistics for LIS working age adults (18-65) ................74

Table 3.4: Effects of Globalization on Poverty .......................................................77

Table 3.5: Effects of Politics on Poverty ..................................................................78

Table 3.6: Effects of Welfare State Commitment on Poverty .............................86

Table 4.1: Weighted Demographic and Poverty Characteristics of the Sample (N=46,562) ......................................................................................................104

Table 4.2: Logistic Regression Model Explaining Poverty Status (N=46,562) ................................................................................................108

Table 4.3: Multinomial Logistic Regression Model Explaining Multi- Category Poverty Status (N=46,562) .................................................112

Table 5.1: Poverty on Country Variations and Individual Variables .............126

Table 5.2: Poverty on Globalization and Individual Variables ........................128

Table 5.3: Poverty on Country-Level Political and Individual Variables ......129

Table 5.4: Poverty on Country-Level Economic and Individual Variables ...130

Table 5.5: Poverty on Country-Level Social Welfare Effort and Individual Variables ...................................................................................................131

Table 5.6: Descriptive statistics for LIS working age adults (18-65) in poverty .......................................................................................................134

Table 5.7: Poverty Gap Ratio on Individual Variables ......................................135

Table 5.8: Poverty Gap Ratio on WSI and Individual Variables .....................136

xi List of Figures

Figure 1.1: Average social welfare spending among 18 Affluent Democracies .................................................................................................5

Figure 1.2: Multilevel Conceptual Map of Structural Effects on Poverty ........19

Figure 1.3: Hypothesized Relationships of Structural Variables .......................21

Figure 1.4: Hypothesized Relationships of Individual-Level Variables ............23 Figure 2.1: Average Welfare Generosity over Time ...............................................57

Figure 2.2: Average Globalization over Time ..........................................................58

Figure 2.3: Average Cumulative Left Party Dominance over Time ...................58

Figure 2.4: Average Percentage of Service Sector Workforce over Time ..........58

Figure 3.1: Comparison of Pre/Post-Transfer Poverty Rates ..............................66

Figure 3.2: Comparison of Pre/Post-Transfer Poverty Gap .................................67

Figure 3.3: Percentage Change in Poverty Rate and Poverty Gap ....................68

Figure 3.4: LIS Poverty Rates for Working-Age Adults 18-65 ............................70

Figure 3.5: Percentage of Female Working-Age Population and Poverty ........88

Figure 3.6: Number of Earners in Household and Poverty..................................89

Figure 6.1: Poverty as the Political Wound ...........................................................140

Figure 6.2: Towards an Inclusive Problem Definition of Poverty ....................166

1 Chapter 1. Introduction This introduction section provides the overview of the dissertation. This dissertation attempts to investigate the individual and structural determinants of individual poverty. Supported by the structuration theory that views state actors not only as being influenced by external and internal structures but also causing variations in these structures, the dissertation understands the concept of ‘self’ within this type of dynamic global system and subsystems. Considering multiple layers of causal factors, I suggest that individual poverty be understood from a ‘glocal’ perspective. Here, lack of human capital within the local context could reflect the consequence of structural vulnerability of the poor vis-à-vis the global system and the national subsystems (Rank 2004). Guided by these theoretical orientations, the dissertation asks to what extent socio-politico-economic variables, given individual human capital, demographic, and household structures, affect poverty at the individual level. Employing a cross-national comparative method, the dissertation first analyzes the interplay of structural—i.e., global and national level—variables as they affect welfare state and poverty at the aggregate level. Then, it examines the interplay of individual factors affecting individual level poverty in the United States. These two perspectives were combined in analyses of multilevel models of 17 affluent democracies in order to answer the main question.

2

1.1. Problem Issue and Purpose This dissertation focuses on the issue of poverty both at the aggregate and individual levels. It is maintained that poverty results from the natural workings of the global economic system, but the degree to which the political system exercises power vis-à-vis the global market determines social welfare commitment and poverty. Active government involvement to ensure ‘social rights’ for its citizens makes economic well-being a key common good issue, while failure to organize the public will to remedy poverty keeps it a bootstrap issue. In this regard, globalization, politics, and social welfare commitment represent the structural socio-politico-economic environment contributing to the consequence of poverty. The purpose of this study is to examine the extent to which these socio- politico-economic factors at the structural level impact aggregate and individual level poverty across affluent democracies during a period of growing international interconnectedness and welfare state retrenchment. Employing a multilevel study, the dissertation seeks to understand the interplay among the nation-level social, political and economic factors and individual labor market and demographic factors as they affect individual poverty outcome. The dissertation will provide answers to the following research questions:

3 1. To what extent are socio-economic and political development associated with social welfare effort of nation-states in general? [Chapter 2] 2. Controlling for socio-economic and political development, how do globalization and politics affect social welfare effort among affluent democracies? [Chapter 2] 3. What are the effects of socio-politico-economic factors on poverty at the aggregate level in affluent democracies? [Chapter 3] 4. What are the effects of socio-politico-economic structural factors, along with individual factors, on poverty at the individual level in affluent democracies? [Chapter 4 & 5] The dissertation portrays contemporary society as workings of both global and local forces and structures the world as a global society. Understanding poverty requires thinking globally about its structural causes and linking local particularities—hence ‘glocalizing’ structural poverty—to improve the well-being of individuals and families as the social policy outcome. In this respect, application of glocal knowledge on social policy and poverty can help plan for eradication of poverty in this highly complex, globalized world-system.

1.2. Significance of the Issue Jeffery Sachs estimates that about 1 billion world citizens live in extreme poverty and another 1.5 billion live in poverty; this totals

4 approximately 40% of humanity. The world has made great economic progress over the centuries, but “at a different rate in different regions” (2005, 31). Fed by a confluence of factors in recent history—notably technological innovation—the gap between the richest economies and the poorest regions has widened to twenty to one. In this global environment, Sachs maintains, the poor are caught in a poverty trap and challenged by structural forces that “keep them from getting even their first foot on the ladder of development” (2005, 226). Government involvement in social welfare has been most extensive in Western industrialized countries since the early 1900s (Dixon and Scheurell 2002; Esping-Andersen 1990; Ginsburg 1992; Pierson 1991). These governments have intervened to promote the welfare of their citizens, and thus they have acquired the name “welfare states” (Finer 1999, 16-17; Midgley 1997, 79) and have enjoyed their “golden years” roughly from 1945 to 1975 (Dixon and Scheurell 2002, 237; Esping-Andersen, 1996, 1). During these years, many developing nations and more recently the transitional economies have modeled after one or some mixes of these forerunner systems to establish their own kinds of state welfare structures. Since the mid-1970s, however, governments of advanced capitalist democracies have in varying degrees attempted to retrench the welfare state (Swank 2001; Esping-Andersen 1996). Welfare states engaged in “across-the- board cost cutting in response to a crisis of profitability in the capitalist

5 economy” (Fabricant and Burghardt 1992, 29). These budget cuts and consequent changes in the structure of social services have been fundamentally linked to declining economy. With the emergence of the economic crisis and the rise of the debtor state, access to and benefit levels of entitlement programs have diminished (Fabricant and Burghardt 1992, 14).

Figure 1.1: Average social welfare spending among 18 Affluent Democracies

Figure 1.1 reports the change over time in average social welfare spending using the Comparative Welfare States Dataset assembled by Huber, Ragin, and Stephens in 1997 and later updated by Brady, Beckfield and Stephens in 2004 (Huber et al. 2004). It is evident that the mean social welfare spending as a percentage of GDP among 18 affluent democracies declined precipitously since the early 1990s. For some countries, downward changes were taking place since the 1980s. The United States in particular maintained the lowest social welfare spending per GDP compared to other advanced economies. The cost-containment policies have not only

6 undermined the living situations of the poor people (Fabricant and Burghardt 1992) but also degraded global humanity as a whole (Mohan 1985; 2005). Welfare states play a crucial role of managing economic risks, distributing economic resources and institutionalizing equality (Brady, 2009a; 2009b). Even with gradually increased spending on social welfare between 1980 and 1992, the post-tax post-transfer poverty rate reversed the reduction trend prior to this time (Calyton and Pontusson 1998). Economic changes in more egalitarian Nordic welfare states during the 1980s and 1990s—i.e., declining employment—contributed to earnings inequality, which triggered increased government redistribution (Kenworthy 2004). Wage inequality has grown since 1980 due to the declining wage bargaining and public sector restructuring along with various structural factors—i.e., structural unemployment, immigration, changes in demand for labor, slower growth of higher education, (Clayton and Pontusson 1998). In countries where wage inequality was key to rising poverty and household income inequality—the United States, the United Kingdom, and Italy— welfare states were less generous thereby increasing post-tax post-transfer income inequality (Kenworthy 2004). Compared to other advanced welfare states, the United States has the highest poverty rate and inequality at the beginning of the 21 st Century (Smeeding 2005; Brady 2009a; 2009b). Poverty is a significant structural issue as it is deeply present in the United States, the world’s richest nation

7 (Brady 2009b; Rank 2004). Due to American institutions and lack of spending effort, government policies and social spending produces much less effect in the United States compared to any other advanced democracies (Smeeding 2005). Approximately 50 million or 20% of Americans are relatively deprived and this figure may be as large as thrice the size of some Western European countries (Brady 2009b). Even more striking is that the high risk of experiencing poverty cuts across all age groups. A series of life-table analyses conducted by Rank and Hirschl (2001) suggest that poverty is a real issue that affects the lives of almost everyone in America. Their studies revealed that about 66% of all Americans are expected to experience at least a year in poverty by age 75 and that 37% of American adults will experience extreme poverty (below 50% of the poverty line). The magnitude and pervasiveness of the issue suggest the structural nature of poverty. What is most striking is that 34% of all American children—including 69% of African-American children and 63% of children whose household head has less than 12 years of education—will experience poverty before the age of 17 (Rank and Hirschl 1999). In 2006, about 17% of all children (13 million) lived in families with below-poverty income (National Center for Children in Poverty [NCCP], 2007b). Research suggests that families need income of at least twice the federal poverty level (FPL) to take

8 care of basic needs, but one finds that an additional 19% of children live in families with 100% to 200% FPL income (NCCP 2007a). The United States, to a large extent, exercises its post-Cold War hegemonic power as a military and an economic leader. As an icon of prosperity based on individual freedom and liberty, the United States’ central position within the international community triggers other nation-states to emulate its policy choices. For example, welfare reform is already being modeled by other Western European and developing countries as a way to meet the financial challenges that governments have had to face since the ‘welfare state crisis’ (Schelkle 1999). A ‘race to the bottom’ as it applied to the United States (Schram and Beer 1999) could lead to an international pattern of moving toward lower benefits and stricter rules for welfare provision (Mosley 2005).

1.3. Global vs. Local in the World-System 1.3.1. Globalization and Welfare State Various schools of thought in international political economy— liberalism, realism, and historical structuralism 1 —have over many years developed theoretical arguments on the processes and effects of capitalism. Especially after the fall of Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union, which signaled the end of the Cold War, an agreement growingly emerged that capitalism’s

1 The three main perspectives are not mutually exclusive ideologies and each contains a wide variety of writings within (Cohn 2000).

9 liberal market forces are being unleashed into the unclaimed prairies of open global economy. This is the context in which this dissertation begins the academic inquiry about what impact global capitalism has on the degree of state authority in terms of protecting the welfare of its citizens domestically. So long as welfare states remain an influential actor in this global arena, the locally weak and rather underrepresented needs of its citizenry could avoid marginalization by the whims and woes of the global market forces. Globalization is often referred to as a market-induced process by which changes take place in capital flows, production systems, markets and trade of goods and services (Poole and Negi 2008). It is manifested by global changes in economic structures and transnationlization of the world economy (George and Wilding 2002). These processes involve the spatial reorganization of production from advanced industrial to developing countries, the interpenetration of industries across borders, the spread of financial markets, decrease in transportation and communication costs, and the diffusion of identical consumer goods to distant countries (Mittelman 1996; Yeates 1999). Dominelli (1999) suggests that globalization not only promotes the ‘market discipline’ but also affects all government activities, social welfare systems, and human relationships. The main concern of globalization stated by Cox (1996) is the loss of autonomous regulatory power by states. The state’s capacity of shielding domestic economies from negative effects of globalization has diminished. Mittelman (1996) further adds that ‘in a

10 globalized division of labor, the state no longer primarily initiates action in, but reacts to, worldwide economic forces.’ In order to realize material gain from globalization, ‘the state increasingly facilitates this process, acting as its agent.’ While the curative measure offered to confront this has been more globalization, no regulatory power at the level of global economy has been provided (Cox 1996). Mabbett and Bolderson (1999) explain the theory behind welfare state retrenchment that increased government spending on social welfare would raise the labor costs, which in turn would decrease profitability. In addition, when mobile capital will seek high-profit areas, it is inevitable that migration of capital will take place from generous welfare states to other profit maximizing areas. This process necessitates reform or the welfare states have to suffer economic crisis. This efficiency perspective suggests that globalization reduces political power and economic autonomy thereby causing welfare state retrenchment (Blackmon 2006; Stiglitz 2006). Many scholars have supported this position that global capitalism has challenged the welfare states in their authority and capacity to protect the common good against market failures at the global level (Deacon 2000; Fabricant and Burghardt 1992; Huber and Stephens 2001; Mkandawire and Rodriguez 2000; Mishra 1999; Nitzan 2001; Rieger and Leibfried 1998; Stoesz and Lusk 1995; Strange 1996; Teeple 2000). However, this dominant view has been contested by others who have maintained that globalization will

11 have a positive effect on social spending, reflecting the increased need for social protection (Garrett 1998; Kittel and Winner 2005). In some recent studies, globalization was found to have a rather curvilinear relationship with welfare state generosity (Brady et al. 2005; Hicks 1999; Kim 2009; Rodrik 1997). Globalization has a differential effect on the government social welfare effort—positive for less globalized countries and negative for more globally integrated countries (Kim 2009). As governments of developing nations are constrained more broadly by financial market pressures than advanced nations (Mosley 2003), social welfare effort will be enhanced by triggering economic development (Brady et al. 2005). For already developed, mature welfare states, however, globalization causes contractions.

1.3.2. Agent-Structure Relationships in a Global Society In light of these mixed findings and arguments, having knowledge in the linkages between the world economy and the national and local economies, and the changes in such linkages, is indispensable to understanding the social and political consequences within countries (Keohane and Milner 1996). When it comes to understanding welfare states’ adoption of social insurance legislation, Usui (1994) maintains that world contextual factors contribute significantly by way of developing world-system and global norms for state provision of social security.

12 The world-system theorists define international system structures in terms of “the fundamental organizing principles of the capitalist world economy, which underlie and constitute states” (Wendt 1987). Thus, capitalism has created a global economy that subsumes the economics of the nation state (Wallerstein 1974). A world economy, according to Wallerstein (1974), is an economic division of labor, which is overlaid by a multicentric system of states. He further argues that capitalism, as a mode of production, has always been imperialistic by constituting a hierarchical division of labor between core areas and peripheral areas (Chase-Dunn 1981). This categorization involves core areas being concentrated with capital-intensive production that uses skilled and high-wage labor, while peripheral areas contain mostly labor-intensive production that utilizes low- wage labor, which is often subject to extra-economic coercion. There is an inherent relationship of exploitation between the developed and the less developed world (Yearly 1996). Wallerstein (1974) believes that the governments of developing nations need to understand the way the system works and seize the chances created by the flow of global capital if they were to prosper (Midgley 1997). The nation state, based on this view, should no longer be treated as the unit of analysis but the world in its totality. Barker (1978), cited by Chase- Dunn (1981), in support of this, points out that the social system of capitalism is not the state, but rather, the larger competitive state system. A

13 global economy requires analyzing the world as an integrated system in which economic forces flow according to the interests of capital. Wallerstein (1974) shares this view as he emphasizes that the only meaningful unit of analysis in comparative or international research of the global society is the whole world-system. Observing the twentieth-century state in the core of the modern world- system, Taylor (2003) contends that a state is a container of multiple functions—i.e., waging war, managing economy, giving national identity, and providing social services. The states’ traditional territoriality that was used to contain these functions has been challenged due to increasing globalization. Against the end of the state thesis and the argument that this container function might be leaking, he maintains that there is plenty of life left in the container. Wendt (1987) critiques the structural approach in world-system theory by raising the question of ‘agent-structure problem,’ which situates agents and social structures in relation to one another. He suggests that human agents and social structures are theoretically interdependent or mutually implicating entities as he outlays two truisms about social life in which the agent-structure problem has its origins. One is that human beings and their organizations are purposeful actors whose actions help reproduce or transform the society in which they live; and the other that society is made up of social relationships, which structure the interactions between these

14 purposeful actors. The problem in world-system theory, therefore, is that there is no straightforward way to conceptualize these entities and their relationships—the agent-structure relations. World-system theorists’ approach to the agent-structure problem is to consider the world-system primitive and then to reduce state and class agents to the effects of the reproduction requirements of capitalist world- system. Wendt (1987) questions the ability of the world-system theory to explain the properties and causal powers of its primary units of analysis as seriously undermining the potential explanations of state action. While world-system theory provides important insights into examining the structure and dynamics of global systems, it leaves serious weaknesses in the theorization of the two basic building blocks on the global society—states and international system structures. Instead, Wendt (1987) proposes a structurationist approach to the state system which views states in relational terms as generated or constituted by internal relations of sovereignty and external spheres of influence. The structuration theory suggests that states can be considered goal-directed units of action or agents by definition. Wendt (1987, 356) further states, ‘just as social structures are ontologically dependent upon and therefore constituted by the practices and self-understandings of agents, the causal powers and interests of those agents, in their own turn, are constituted and therefore explained by structures.’

Full document contains 227 pages
Abstract: The purpose of this study is to examine the extent to which socio-politico-economic factors at the structural level impact individual poverty across 17 developed countries in a period of welfare state retrenchment and growing international interconnectedness. This dissertation contributes to a newly developing body of knowledge on cross-national comparison of individual poverty using multilevel analyses. This method allows for modeling various determinants of poverty (variables with different units of analysis at both individual and structural levels) together in a single analysis. The OECD and Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) data were used to conduct a cross-national comparative analysis of 17 affluent economies. The LIS is a cross-national data archive, one of the best harmonized database sources for comparative studies on poverty and income distribution. In order to examine the variations in poverty among individuals in advanced welfare states, 17 countries were selected from LIS Wave 5 (around year 2000). Focusing on labor market active age group (between 18 and 65 years of age), merging of the data for these countries yielded roughly 120,838 working-age individuals in the sample. Analyses leading up to the multilevel approach examined the variations of social welfare effort among 110 countries by their socio-economic and political development, poverty at the aggregate level in a series of bivariate analyses of 17 affluent economies, and the local perspective of individual poverty in the United States. Social welfare effort cross-nationally is found to be conditioned primarily by the socio-economic determinants in the larger global context. Globalization and politics play a more significant positive role on social welfare effort among the advanced democracies. Globalization also has a positive effect on politics. While globalization does not have a direct effect on aggregate poverty, politics and social welfare effort have significant effects. Local determinants of poverty show that human capital and demographic variables significantly affect poverty, but with differential effects of human capital for the poor compared to the near poor. The multilevel analyses provide a glocal perspective on explaining individual poverty. Results indicate that individuals who reside in countries with higher degree of globalization and greater left political power are less likely to be poor. Plus, those residing in countries with higher welfare state generosity and active labor market policies are less likely to be poor. Controlling for individual level demographic and human capital variables, the global and nation level structural variables were found to be significant. Individual poverty is affected by: (1) globalization; (2) politics [representation of the poor; cumulative left party power; and union density]; and (3) social welfare commitment [welfare generosity; active labor market policies; and public educational expenditure]. Implications for U.S. poverty and glocalization strategies to tackle structural poverty are discussed.