Professor Stephen Whitefield - Project Coordinator
The fundamental aim of Eurequal has been to create and disseminate knowledge about the character and consequences of social inequality in post-Communist Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) that will facilitate the achievement of greater social equality between individuals, social cohesiveness in societies, democratic and market development, and the broader integration of Europe. To achieve this aim, we focused on the following concrete research objectives:
1. Measuring and characterising patterns of social inequality in CEE and how these may have changed over the past decade
2. Characterising the factors at the individual and household levels that are most associated with social inequality
3. Characterising the economic, political and institutional arrangements of states that have the greatest positive and negative impact on social inequality
4. Investigating the consequences of social inequality for individual and household economic behaviour, in particular for intra and inter-generational social mobility, and how this may have changed over time
5. Characterising the consequences of social inequality for political attitudes, especially towards other social groups, and for political behaviour
6. Analysing the consequences of social inequality for economic growth, democratic consolidation and international integration
In pursuit of these objectives, the consortium undertook the following empirical data collection.
• Desk research – the state of the social inequality in each of the 13 countries of focus: this research is available for download at https://eurequal.politics.ox.ac.uk/papers/
• Focus groups – these were conducted involving citizens in 10 of the countries of research focus. The focus groups asked people to discuss their experience of social inequality, its importance to them as an issue, their explanation for why social inequality exists and whether it ought to, their view of what might be done about it and by whom. As planned, the focus groups were used to amend and develop the questionnaires in subsequent surveys of citizens and of experts on political parties. Considerable effort was expended on translating transcripts from multiple languages into English, and comparative research is underway, with results and papers to available on the Project web-site.
• Surveys of citizens – national probability surveys were conducted in 13 countries on issues connected with the economic, social, and political behaviour and situation of respondents, as well as their attitudes towards inequality, welfare and redistributive policies, and other social and political issues that may explain or be associated with positions on social inequality. The surveys followed a common format across all countries to allow for maximum comparability of results.
• Study of the stances of political parties towards social inequality – this activity was undertaken via a survey of experts (a method that has been validated in CEE and other contexts) on the parties of 13 countries. The experts were asked to say where parties stand on issues, and how much importance they ascribe to these issues in their appeals to the public. The main issues of concern include social inequality in general, various specific redistributive policies, and other social, economic and political questions - including European Union integration - that may be associated with social inequality by parties.
• Collection and integration of national level economic, political and social data. These were then integrated into the citizen and party-level data sets to allow for consideration of the impact of national levels factors on individual and party level outcomes.
Considerable progress has been made in using all the empirical data collected by the Eurequal to address the main questions set out for investigation. All Consortium members have been involved in aspects of analysis, and the team of analysts has expanded to include established academics as well as advanced research students. We note that the extensive and complex nature of the data, and indeed the complex research questions we address, will ensure that analysis continues well beyond the formal completion of the project.
Codebooks for the mass survey and expert survey will be available under Working Papers, and the datasets are available upon written request.
Prof Stephen Whitefield