FES | Federación Española de Sociología

XII Congreso de la FES

The distributional effects of the Spanish Recession

GT 11 Southern European Societies

Pierre Blavier (EHESS)


Sesión de comunicaciones orales Franja 4 : Family and care
Tipo de sesión: Sesión de comunicaciones orales
Día: viernes, 1 de julio de 2016
Hora: 16:00 a 18:00
Lugar: 205

When Thomas Piketty came to Spain in january 2015, the media reported that he said : « The great source of inequality in Europe comes from the unemployment, it should be looked at the bottom of the income distribution. »[1]. And indeed, still rather little is known about the effects of recessions on inequality and in particular for the case of the ongoing 2008 Great Recession in Spain. On one hand some empirical studies (Heathcote et alii, 2010) do suggest that generally inequality and recessive periods are correlate, even if the mechanisms at stakes remain unclear. Ferrer-i Carbonnel et alii (2013) have shown that until the Great Recession Spain is not an exception to this empirical rule of thumb. On the other hand for the most recent period and the Great Recession the case of Spain is often left aside (Jenkins et al., 2013, Gornick, Jantti, 2013).

The idea of this study is to tackle empiricaly this issue regarding the distribution of both revenues and economic hardships. It aims at testing a variety of hypotheses : the range of the familial solidarity, the cushioning effect of the unemployment benefits, and the link between poverty and long-term unemployment.

To do this, it uses the ECHP and EU-SILC data (« encuesta ECV » in Spanish), which both have a cross-sectional and a panel components and both survey income and living conditions at individual and household levels.

First of all these allow to draw long-term evolution (1994-2015) of various inequality indicators. Secondly a Gini decomposition (Aaberge et al., 2000, López-Feldman, 2006) aims at identifying the redistributional effects of different kinds of revenues on inequality. Thirdly a sequence analysis (Abbott, Tsay, 2000, Robette, 2012) proposes an alternative approach to the long-term unemployment, both in terms of its patterns along the Great Recession and of economic hardships.

These analyses lead to three main conclusions.

Indeed inequality evolution since 1994 exhibits U-shaped curves. But this recently inverted trend has still not brought Spain to the level of the beginning of the 1990’s.

Mixed evolutions are at stakes across the different kinds of revenues, but they suggest the importance of unemployment to explain inequality.

Therefore a closer look at unemployment sequences through sequence analysis depicts the formation of an important precariat, i.e. people alternating long-term unemployment and short-term employment, for whom many social characteristics and economic hardships can be shown. Contrary to standard measure of long-term unemployment (duration of the last spell of unemployment), this analysis shows that during recession unemployment actually concerns far more people than only the unemployed considered through only one point of time (as done by the cross-sectional unemployment rate). In the case of Spain it has been this class of people who has suffered the most from the Great Recession. This mechanism underpins inequality.


[1] El País, 11th of january 2015.

Palabras clave: Recession, long-term Unemployment, sequence analysis, inequality