The 'Europeanization' of Reference Groups

Christopher T. Whelan, Bertrand Maitre

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)


    In this paper we address the question of the relative importance of within and between country differences in income and material deprivation in the European Union in the context of recent suggestions that insufficient attention has been paid to the latter. In particular, we respond to the argument that the 'state bounded' relative income approach obscures the significance of EU-wide reference groups. Making use of EU-SILC 2004, we have sought to quantify the magnitude of relevant within and between country differences and their relative impact. Overall, our analysis supports the view that the predominant frame of reference is a national one. The limited impact of European reference groups observed in our analysis does not require explanation in terms of the emergence of a European social stratification system. Furthermore, the significance of such comparisons depends not only on the expectations of those affected by European inequalities but on the degree of legitimacy afforded to ensuing demands. While an EU-wide income-threshold can provide information regarding progress of the Union towards greater social cohesion, its usage for this purpose does not require a strong sense of European identity. Given the current status of the European Social Model, it would seem unwise to attribute an undue degree of policy relevance to the relatively modest impact of EU-wide reference groups revealed in our analysis.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)283-309
    Number of pages27
    JournalEuropean Societies
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2009

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Geography, Planning and Development
    • Demography


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