Reports 2015/51

Participation, support, trust and belonging

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This report looks at indicators of inequality within the following six areas: impediments for participation, trust, social participation, social support, civic participation and loneliness. The social and demographic differences for the population aged 16 years and above within all the six aspects of social relations are examined, with an emphasis on differences according to education and income. We also compare differences of social relations between men and women and between different age groups. In addition we present a multivariate analysis in most of the chapters, where we include the following social and demographic variables; education, income, age, gender, immigrant background, area of residence, self-defined economic status and type of household. Social and demographic differences in social relationships among children are studied separately.

In Chapter 3, we look at impediments for social participation. One in four report that they experience obstacles to social participation. Some social and demographic groups experience bigger barriers with respect to social participation. Women report higher barriers to social participation than men, and impediments increase with age. People with low education, low income and that are poorly integrated in the labor market, experience obstacles to social participation in a greater extent than others. Health problems are the number one reason for being prevented from participating. Health as a barrier for social participation is more frequent among people with a lower education and income level, whilst time- and financial restraints are more prevalent amongst people with higher income and education levels.

Compared to other European countries, the population in Norway has a high level of trust, irrespective of which measures of trust one chooses to use. In chapter 4, we investigate differences in horizontal and vertical trust. Women have a greater degree of both horizontal and vertical trust than men. Trust also increases with socioeconomic status. People with higher income and education levels have higher interpersonal trust, and tend to have more trust in government institutions, compared to people with lower household income and education levels. Being employed or being a student is also positively correlated with trust.

We study the relationship between social participation and socioeconomic resources in chapter 5. People living in households with low income participate less, whether it is in terms of being without a partner, having little contact with family and friends, being socially isolated or not participating in organizations. There are clear differences in social participation between people with different educational levels. Higher education entails more participation. However, when we look at family contact we find an example of a "reverse" social gradient; higher education is correlated with less family contact. Furthermore, we find that those who are marginalized or excluded in the labor market (unemployed or disabled) participate less in social settings than the employed.

The same tendency is evident when we look at social support and social networks (Chapter 6). The probability of having a small network of support decreases with increasing income and education levels, while access to a large network tend to increase with the supply of socioeconomic resources. The analysis also shows a strong effect of immigration status. Immigrants have less access to social support than those that are born in Norway. Being part of the workforce and type of household also seems to matter.

By looking at different forms of both formal and informal democratic participation, we find that the different demographic groups employ varying channels for democratic participation (Chapter 7). While women are more likely to vote at elections, men are more often members of a political party and more active in informal political channels. Regardless of what form of democratic participation we investigate, people with higher socio-economic status are more active than people with lower socio-economic status. However, by controlling for relevant background variables in a multivariate analysis, the correlation between income and democratic participation is considerably reduced and only statistical significant for voter participation.

In Chapter 8 we present differences concerning the experience of being somewhat or very bothered by feelings of loneliness. We find that loneliness is more common amongst people with lower secondary education than among those who have secondary and higher education. We also find that the prevalence decreases with rising household income. However, after controlling for other demographic and social characteristics, neither education nor income is associated with loneliness. The relationship with education disappears when the characteristics of labor market integration is included in the analysis, whilst the relationship with income is no longer significant when taking into account that people with a low income more often are living without a partner than those with higher incomes. If we just look at the percentage that are «rather much» or «very much» bothered by feelings of loneliness, the results are pretty much the same. However, in this case income still has an effect. Those that belong to the two lowest income quartiles are more heavily bothered by feelings of loneliness than the richest quartile, all else equal.

The data source utilized in this report, the surveys on living conditions, has limited information regarding children. The survey still covers some questions regarding the children in the household and their social relations, which we utilize in Chapter 9. The data show that children's social relations are related to the socioeconomic background of their family. Both when we look at economic barriers to social participation, social participation, social support and loneliness, children living in a household with a low income and a low educational level have weaker social relations compared to children belonging to a household with a higher level of income and education.

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