Projects

Intergenerational cultures of worklessness

A Joseph Rowntree Foundation-funded project has investigated the concept of intergenerational cultures of worklessness. Professor Rob MacDonald was part of a team of researchers from Teesside and Glasgow universities. The study aimed to critically interrogate the idea that worklessness becomes concentrated in families over time because of cultural outlooks, attitudes and behaviours that are passed down the generations.

Intergenerational cultures of worklessness

In-depth qualitative interviews were held across different generations in 20 families who have experienced long-term worklessness in deprived areas of Glasgow and Teesside. The idea that three generations of families have never worked is a very popular one with politicians, policy makers and the general public but there is very little hard evidence to suggest that this is a real or extensive phenomenon.

The research, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in September 2012, provided a rigorous test of these ideas and concluded that – contrary to much current rhetoric – a strong commitment to employment remained even in heavily disadvantaged and long-term workless households. The researchers will use the study to challenge contemporary myths about worklessness and to inform better policy and practice, nationally and locally, towards the problems of long-term poverty and worklessness.