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The research project aims to further our understanding of the so-called “crisis of the Italian middle class”. In contrast to most of the public debate, which has mostly framed such “crisis” in terms of an “impoverishment” of the middle class, we argue that what is more relevant is rather the declining capacity of the middle class to shelter its members against social risks. In other words, the middle class has also been affected to a significant degree by several forms of social insecurity. By social insecurity we mainly refer to the risk of experiencing economic uncertainty, income loss and financial strain which may be more or less transitory and of limited duration. Such adverse economic conditions represent a threat to the material independence of individuals and households. Three main elements are relevant: a) the exposure to harmful trigger events; b) a gap between available means and actual economic needs; c) the temporal dimension and the more or less transitory character of economic insecurity.

The project will pursue the following main aims:

a) Provide an encompassing measurement of social insecurity. We will carry out longitudinal analysis on available data in two main steps: first, we will distinguish temporary from permanent hardship conditions; second, we will create a portfolio of multi-dimensional indicators;

b) Identify the main drivers of social insecurity. The association between sequences of economic strain and instability on the one hand, and individual and household characteristics, the sequencing of negative events among different social groups/classes on the other, will be investigated to identify what individuals, households and groups are most at risk of social insecurity.

c) Assess the “stratification of insecurity”. By focusing on households’ class position, we aim to assess the extent to which insecurity affects middle and lower classes and/or specific groups within these classes. First, we will look at new forms of stratification within the middle class as a consequence of economic innovation and restructuring; second, we will assess to what extent the spread of social insecurity affects the current social class structure, eventually leading to a new model of social stratification.

d) Assess the role of welfare and employment policies. Welfare and employment policies may contribute to both raise social insecurity and lower it, for instance through innovative social protection programmes. By adopting a European comparative perspective, we will analyse policy developments and political dynamics related to key welfare policies aimed to prevent the squeeze of the middle class.

Financing period


Working group

Costanzo Ranci, Manos Matsaganis, Lara Maestripieri, Giuliana Costa, Andrea Parma

Funding Institution

MIUR – Bando Prin 2017


Università degli Studi di Trento-Dipartimento di Sociologia e Ricerca Sociale; Università degli Studi di Milano-Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche; Università degli Studi “La Sapienza” di Roma-Dipartimento di Economia e Diritto