Insecurity and life planning

Tale Hellevik, Nova - Norwegian Social Reasearch

How does conditions of insecurity, either on the individual or the societal level, affect individuals’ propensity to engage in active life planning? On the one hand it is possible that insecurity discourages life planning because individuals will be more likely to feel that planning is pointless, while security encourages planning as individuals will see the future as predictable and therefore useful to plan in relation to. On the other hand it is also possible that insecurity encourages life planning because individuals will be more likely to feel that being prepared enhances their life prospects, while security discourages planning as individuals will see planning as less important when opportunities are plentiful for everyone. This paper tests the validity of these two competing hypotheses by employing two-level OLS regression models on the 2006 European Social Survey, and with country level variables collected from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Databases and the World Bank’s World Development Indicators. The relationship between measures of insecurity and individuals’ propensity to engage in active life planning turns out to be opposite on the individual and the country level. At the individual level, a person in a secure situation is more likely to plan for the future than a person who is struggling. At the same time we find that at the country level, individuals living in nations that are relatively less privileged on average plan for the future to a greater extent than individuals living in countries that are doing better. A possible explanation for the pattern is a subtle difference in what the effects of the indicators of insecurity on the two levels capture: on the individual level – the capacity to plan, on the country level – the need to plan.

Presented in Session 91: Multilevel perspectives on his and her life course in Europe

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