Unemployment and Social Participation: The Joint Role of Individual and Contextual Unemployment in Europe


How does unemployment affect social participation? A considerable body of work has analysed the scar effects of unemployment on social participation and exclusion, which are important antecedents of civic and political participation. However, this literature has scarcely addressed the moderating role of contextual unemployment. In this article, we extend a theoretical framework positing that unemployment scars decrease social participation, and that those individual effects are moderated by contextual unemployment. We test these hypotheses relying on Rounds 4–9 (2008–2018) of the European Social Survey, for 33 countries, and more than 100 sub-national units including macro-regions (NUTS1) and regions (NUTS2), measuring participation as the frequency of social meetings with relatives/friends/colleagues. Results from linear regressions with context-year Fixed Effects indicate that those with longer and more recent unemployment experiences participate less socially. However, these individual negative effects vary powerfully according to the contextual unemployment rate: the scar effects of unemployment on social participation are strongest where unemployment rates are smaller, and almost zero and not statistically significant where they are higher. These findings highlight the joint centrality of individual and contextual unemployment to illuminate social participation.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20356609v15i3p916

Keywords: European Social Survey; Social Participation; Social Stratification; Unemployment Rate; Unemployment Scarring


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