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Relevance to the objectives of Priority 7

The research design, activities, questions and hypotheses discussed above directly respond to the central objectives of the call. These relationships can be summarised as follows:

Substantively, we address those economic and political issues relating to social inequality that most directly bear on the social, economic and political development and cohesion of Central and Eastern Europe - both as these concern individual citizens and their life-strategies and as they concern countries (and as the two levels interact with one another) - and as these issues in CEE states impact on the rest of Europe. We deal directly with the social, economic and political consequences of social inequality, across a broad range of the most relevant outcomes to individual and nations.

We will engage with these broad substantive issues by developing a multi-level model of how inequalities in society are formed, are reproduced and change over time by considering the case of post-Communist states that have, to varying degrees, emerged as market democracies and which thus offer a crucial 'natural experiment' in the dynamics of social inequality formation and development.

We will achieve these goals by careful measurement of various kinds of social inequality across a broad and theoretically relevant range of economic, social, institutional and cultural characteristics. We do not pre-suppose that any one factor (such as social class, cultural capital and social capital, gender, etc) will be predominant in shaping inequalities in resources and differentiating attitudes and behaviour - rather, we see social inequality as being shaped by interaction and interrelation among factors that will require careful empirical unpacking. Only by investigating such interactions, and how they may differ across states and over time, will it be possible adequately to explain the production and reproduction of such inequalities.

Our comparative research design is crucial to unravelling changes and continuities in social inequalities. We will therefore be able to address directly whether forms and patterns of social inequality are indeed being reproduced - by individuals over the course of their lives, by families across generations, and as these are aggregated to the level of countries - or whether the dramatic economic, social and political changes that have been undertaken in CEE states since the fall of Communist power may have radically reshaped patterns of social inequality and indeed given rise to new ways in which it is structured and reproduced.

The project is concerned with the individual and country level causes and consequences of social inequality. Thus, we will be able to address the impact of policy factors on social inequality, including the effect of welfare regimes (such as the ways in which public services are organised and the cost criteria for distribution of benefits) and institutional arrangements. However, importantly we will also take into account a broad range of country level conditions that may have an effect, including economic, cultural and elite level factors.

The multi-level design of the project will also mean that we will be able to address the effect of social inequality on country level outcomes, such as economic growth, democratic consolidation, social conflict, and perceptions as well as 'objective' estimates of quality of life. Careful measurement of the cultural dimensions of social inequality will allow us to analyse how it is related to attitudes towards others in society and how these attitudes may translate into political behaviour.

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