Die alltägliche Bewältigung von Armut: Individuelle Handlungsstrategien unter der Bedingung materieller Knappheit in städtischen und ländlichen Räumen Mecklenburg-Vorpommerns

We analyze 14 qualitative interviews with persons living in relative income poverty in urban and rural areas of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The interviews were conducted in 2013/14. We show how poverty affects everyday life. Poverty is less menacing and restricting opportunities for respondents who manage to be socially included (Type: "adapted and steady") on those who have a perspective to overcome the situation (Type: "pugnacious and renellious"). A precondition for this is the availability of opportunity structures such as community centers, clubs, advisory services etc. By engaging in these structures these respondents gain social recognition and the feeling that they can determine their own lives. Respondents with small social networks with few friends and family members report more hardships. Some of them are disappointed and even withdrew from social contacts (Type: "disappionted and weary"). Another group of younger persons in our sample do not have role models or viable courses of action and are therefore not able to imagine perspectives for their own life. Their future depends on institutional actors who show them alternatives – or fail in doing so (Type: "hopeful but disoriented"). Comparing our respondents from urban and rural areas we find that coping with poverty is harder for those living in rural areas because there are less opportunities for taking part in public and cultural activities or reaching them is subject to higher mobility demands. When respondents take this as an effect of spatial disadvantage this results in resignation and frustration. Resignation and frustration are not an exclusive rural problem but the perception of being spatially and structurally disadvantaged fosters the subjective feeling of being left behind from social developments and progress. Other respondents from the rural areas we studied are less weary but they consider leaving the region because they hope for better chances somewhere else. Yet, the option of moving away is often hindered by causes rooted in their social networks: caring responsibilities for family members or social integration in local circles such as clubs, neighborhoods, circles of friends. Younger respondents with lower education in our sample have less opportunities. For them the rurality of their region is disadvantageous in different perspectives: typically, they do not have a vocational perspective close by, positive role models are rare also due to education selective out migration of peers, and (institutional) support networks are sparser than in the urban areas we studied. In an urban context it is more likely that different support systems interact: job center, social workers, educational facilities, employers are closer by and in most cases denser connected. Thus they can provide better support for the complex needs of persons in poverty. Our results hint towards a special challenge for fighting poverty in structurally weak rural areas: mobility restrains of poor persons. These should be tackled by fostering public transport, compensating for higher mobility costs etc. Beyond that decentralized opportunity structures beyond regional centers (medium towns with administrative functions for the region) should be strengthened by bolstering local clubs and other political, cultural or economic structures.

Other Titles:
Coping with poverty in everyday life: Individual agency of respondents in urban and rural areas of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
Issue Date:
Nov 06 2018
Publication Type:
Working or Discussion Paper
DOI and Other Identifiers:
Record Identifier:
Total Pages:
JEL Codes:
I30; J60; Z13
Series Statement:

 Record created 2018-11-09, last modified 2020-10-28

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