Researchers of the ELKH Centre for Social Sciences analyzed the association between poverty indicators, social network characteristics and social capital using nationally representative data collected in 2015. Their previous results had shown that people affected by poverty are also at a disadvantage in terms of their networking characteristics compared to others. However, different poverty indicators are related to the characteristics of networks to varying degrees.
Research on social inequality and poverty has for decades highlighted that the lack of economic resources has social consequences. Instead of the term poverty, the concept of social exclusion may be more adequate, because it explicitly includes that social relations are fundamental features of social integration. Nevertheless, most of the indicators measuring poverty deal mainly with the material dimension. Social support available through their relationships can be especially important for poor people because it can reduce the negative consequences of a poor financial situation. It can help in obtaining a job, contribute to better stress management skills, and provide better access to many other resources, which means that it can even make up for the lack of economic capital to some extent. As a result, the relationship between poverty to different dimensions of social capital is a crucial issue. Do low living standards threaten human relationships or, on the contrary, do relationships become much more important in parallel with poverty?
In the 2015 Hungarian representative survey of the Centre for Social Sciences, Albert Fruzsina and Gábor Hajdu examined how EUROSTAT’s three main poverty indicators and the subjective indicator of the extent of financial problems relate to almost 20 different network indicators.
Their data clearly show that the poor are less integrated into social networks than those who enjoy a higher standard of living. For the group of people identified by poverty indicators, the feeling of subjective exclusion increased significantly. People affected by severe financial deprivation experience significantly less trust and have fewer friends, and they can expect less help from their neighbors – residential segregation can also play a significant role in this. The poor have a less diverse network of contacts, have fewer gatherings in their place of residence, and know fewer highly educated people. The poor are also less satisfied with their family relationships, which, in line with other studies, may suggest that poverty is a source of many interpersonal conflicts. These results call attention to the fact that strategies aimed at reducing and eradicating poverty must also address the relationship dimension and the possibilities of strengthening networks.
Material deprivation is the most strongly linked to the measures of social ties and social integration, whereas income poverty is associated the least strongly with them. Although income poverty is probably the most widely used poverty indicator, the results suggest that material deprivation and even subjective poverty better reflect the multidimensional nature of poverty and social exclusion.