Cutting the Gordian knot of families exclusion in poor neighborhoods: policy lessons from qualitative research on excluded families – the case study of the Lódz Municipality in Poland

Izabela Grabowska, Warsaw School of Economics
Pawel Sliwowski, University of Warsaw

The aim of this paper is to demonstrate that family exclusion, although caused by a limited group of similar factors, is always a unique, complex and context-dependent social mechanism. We claim that regeneration policies should be always more socially oriented policies, rather than exclusively technical and spatial policies. The evidence behind such argument comes from our field research in Lódz Municipality (Poland). Depopulation of Lódz together with gradual degradation of the city space can end up in strengthening negative processes distinctive for second-tier cities, such as formulating and expanding the poverty enclaves. These processes create a serious risk for dramatic decline in location attractiveness of Lódz as the capital of the region. The paper presents results of ethnographic case study conducted in the Lódz Municipality. The study was restricted to the urban downtown area, in which the biggest poor neighborhoods concentrate. Research team conducted overall more than 120 Individual In-Depth Interviews. 84 IDI were conducted with families living in poor neighborhoods. Additionally, about 40 IDI were conducted with representatives of local public agencies and stakeholders. Systematic coding of qualitative data enabled the mapping of families' poverty and exclusion mechanisms that occur in the studied urban area. The main finding is that although three main group of factors contribute the most to poverty and exclusion (work-related, health-related and substance abuse-related problems), each family path to exclusion is different. Such complex issues require systematic approach, but cannot be solved entirely from the state level intervention. Paradoxically, general, state-led policies, like income support policies, can petrify the structures of social exclusion (e.g. keeping mothers at home, preventing from active job-search or qualification building). There is an urgent need of enhanced policy integration and coordination. Not only does the fragmentation of actions reduce their effectiveness, but sometimes it causes the opposite outcomes.

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 Presented in Session P2. Poster Session 2