A taxi driver’s tale, Part 2: The poverty of social status in Georgia
Looking at the association between an individual’s social status and his/her standing in the labor market, the first part of this blog post concluded that higher labor market mobility is characteristic for people with high social status, and that those with high social status have better chances of finding an attractive job. Yet, the question remains whether people with higher social status actually live better lives i.e., enjoy economic well-being and have better perceptions about their and their children’s future. To answer this question, this blog post examines how social status is associated with individual and household well-being. Data again comes from CRRC’s 2013 Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey.
According to Geostat, the subsistence minimum in Georgia was GEL 137 in 2013 (approximately USD 80). CB 2013 asks a question about personal income last month, but the answer options are given in categories (income ranges). The subsistence minimum of $80 falls into the category between $51 and $100. It is used in the blog post as a reference category to compare, on the one hand, individuals with higher incomes and, on the other hand, individuals with lower incomes. The group of respondents reporting not having personal income are considered a separate group.
As expected, social status is positively associated with personal income. Almost half of the representatives of the high social status group made more than $100 last month, whereas only 30% of the low status group and 36% of the middle status group managed to exceed the same threshold. Interestingly, the no income category prevails in the high and middle social status groups. One in every three people in these groups reports having no personal income compared to one in every four in the low status group.
Unsurprisingly, the higher its social status, the more money a household spends. Geostat reported GEL 900 (approximately USD 500) as average monthly household expenditures in 2013. In CB’s corresponding question, this falls into the category between $401 and $800. Again, this is used as a reference category to differentiate households spending more than the average from households spending less than the average. A higher social status is still positively associated with higher spending. However, the overall economic condition of Georgian households looks quite poor. As the chart below shows, even in the high social status group, the majority of households spent under $401 last month, and only 19% spent more than the reference category. In the low social status group, almost everyone (91%) spent less than the reference category, meaning that the low status group households spend significantly less than Georgian households on average.
The poor economic condition of the majority of the Georgian population is confirmed by CB questions about personal savings and debt. The vast majority of Georgians do not have savings, regardless of their social status. However, the high social status group (17%) is almost twice as likely to have some savings compared with members of the low (8%) and middle (9%) status groups. Likewise, money is more often owed to the representatives of the high status group (25%) compared to the middle and low status group members (18% and 12% respectively). The data does not show significant differences in terms of personal debts. Approximately 40% of each group reports owing money.
So far, it has been demonstrated that high social status is helpful to overcome economic hardship, but does not guarantee it. The reported gap between a household’s income and the amount of money it needs to cover its basic needs reinforces this statement. Half of the high status group representatives affirm that during the past 12 months there were occasions when their household did not have enough money to buy food. In the middle and low status groups, more than 70% reported the same. Moreover, the majority of the middle and low status groups and 40% of the high status group had to borrow money to cover utilities in the past six months.
The chart below shows that even representatives of the high social status group can largely satisfy only basic needs. Half reported that money is enough for food and clothes, but not for expensive durable goods (a new refrigerator or washing machine, for example). In the low status group, 35% stated that money is not enough even for food. Interestingly, a quarter of the middle and one in every ten of the high status group report facing the same problem.
It is not surprising that the poor economic realities of households are reflected in perceived place on an imaginary economic “ladder”. The chart below shows that only 19% in the high social status group perceive their household’s economic rung as high (45% place their households on the middle rungs and about one third towards the lower end). In the middle and low social status groups, the majority believes their households stand on the low rungs (46% and 54% respectively).
Note: Original answers were on a 10-point scale. For this graph, answers were re-coded as follows: rungs 1 through 4 – Low, rungs 5-6 – Middle, rungs 7 through 10 – High.
At the same time, belonging to a higher social status group helps people to be more optimistic – 71% of the high status group believes that they will be better off in five years. Despite pressing current economic conditions, the other two groups are also quite optimistic – 57% of the middle and 43% of the low status group believe in a better future. Optimism absolutely flourishes, and the relevance of current social status fades when individuals contemplate their children’s future. Over 90% of all social status groups believe in a brighter financial situation for their descendants. Notably, all three status groups agree that the most important factor that will contribute to the well-being of the next generation is education.
This blog post described how social status is associated with economic well-being and perceptions about the future. The most important message to the taxi driver is that a higher social status in contemporary Georgia leads to more mobility on the labor market, as well as relatively higher income and spending. However, social status alone is hardly enough to overcome poverty and substantially improve well-being. Perhaps this explains why a man with more than one university diploma chooses to continue driving a taxi.
Interview by Dustin Gilbreath
By: Dustin Gilbreath
CRRC’s third annual Methodological Conference: Transformations in the South Caucasus and its Neighbourhood
შიდა მიგრაცია საქართველოში: რა ვიცით მის შესახებ CRRC-ის კავკასიის ბარომეტრის მონაცემების საფუძვლეზე?არსებული შეფასებების თანახმად, მსოფლიო მასშტაბით შიდა მიგრანტთა რაოდენობა ბევრად აღემატება საერთაშორისო მიგრანტთა რაოდენობას. სამწუხაროდ, საქართველოში ძალიან ცოტა მონაცემი არსებობს შიდა მიგრანტების რაოდენობისა და მათი გეოგრაფიული განაწილების შესახებ. საქართველოს სტატისტიკის ეროვნული სამსახურის შინამეურნეობების ინტეგრირებული გამოკვლევები რეგულარულად აგროვებს ინფორმაციას ქვეყანაში შიდა მიგრაციის შესახებ. სახელმწიფო სერვისების განვითარების სააგენტო კოორდინაციას უწევს მოსახლეობის რეგისტრაციას საცხოვრებელი ადგილის მიხედვით.
By Till Bruckner
By Nino Zubashvili
By Dustin Gilbreath
In terms of the business findings, CRRC's Media Survey (undertaken in September/October 2009) generated extensive data that is available to help media make good business decisions. One recent presentation, summarized here, focused on showing the diversity of data that is available.
Food Safety in Georgia: views from retailers, producers and consumers in Tbilisi and Samtskhe-Javakheti
Book Review | The Post-Soviet Wars: Rebellion, Ethnic Conflict and Nationhood in the Caucasus | Christoph Zürcher
Brookings Index of Regime Weakness | State Rebuilding or State Collapse in the Caucasus | The Annals of Data
Here are some basic tips and tricks we found useful.
Book Review: Georgia Diary: A Chronicle of War and Political Chaos in the Post-Soviet Caucasus | Thomas Goltz
Visa liberalization: How much do people in Georgia know about the conditions of visa-free travel to the EU?
CRRC’s previous blog posts have shown that the population of Georgia had rather moderate expectations of the recent visa liberalization with the Schengen zone countries, especially when it comes to the question of how much ordinary people will benefit from it. Europe Foundation’s latest survey on Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia, conducted in May 2017, provides a more nuanced understanding on how people in Georgia feel about this process and to what extent they are familiar with the conditions of visa liberalization.
Visa liberalization: How much do people in Georgia know about the conditions of visa-free travel to the EU?CRRC’s previous blog posts have shown that the population of Georgia had rather moderate expectations of the recent visa liberalization with the Schengen zone countries, especially when it comes to the question of how much ordinary people will benefit from it. Europe Foundation’s latest survey on Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia, conducted in May 2017, provides a more nuanced understanding on how people in Georgia feel about this process and to what extent they are familiar with the conditions of visa liberalization.
Taking partly free voters seriously: autocratic response to voter preferences in Armenia and GeorgiaDo voters in less than democratic contexts matter or are elections simply facades used to create a veneer of democratic accountability for domestic and international actors? Within the Autocratic Response to Voter Preferences in Armenia and Georgia project, funded by Academic Swiss Caucasus Net, CRRC-Georgia and CRRC-Armenia aimed to help answer this question, at least for Georgia and Armenia. On October 27, Caucasus Survey published the results of the project in a special issue, available here.
What are young people’s values and how are these different from older generations’ values in Georgia?As Georgian society is going through social and cultural changes, it is important to understand people’s beliefs and values. Comparing the values of young people to those of the older generations is also important. This blog post summarizes the findings of a study that examined the values of young people aged 18 to 25, and analysed how these values are different from the values of older people in Georgia, based on both quantitative (World Values Survey, 2014) and qualitative data (40 in-depth interviews conducted in 2016). The study looked at values, perceptions, attitudes and tolerance towards different minority groups in Georgia. It concludes that in many cases, the younger generation shares more modern views and values, while the older generations are more inclined to support traditional values and hold conservative points of view.
In the December 2017 CRRC/NDI survey, pollution was the second most commonly named “infrastructural” issue, with 23% of the population choosing it in the respective show card. Only roads were named more often, by 33%. Approximately equal shares of men and women named pollution: 25% of women and 20% of men; similarly, there was no difference in the frequency of naming this issue by age.
The Caucasus Barometer survey regularly asks people, “Which of the following statements do you agree with: “‘People are like children; the government should take care of them like a parent’ or ‘Government is like an employee; the people should be the bosses who control the government.’” Approximately half of the population of Georgia (52%) agreed in 2017 with the former statement and 40% with the latter. Responses to this question have fluctuated to some extent over time, but overall, attitudes are nearly equally split.
But what do people want?
Georgians are enthusiastic in supporting the country’s accession to the European Union. Since 2012, when the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and CRRC-Georgia started tracking attitudes, three quarters of Georgians approved of the government’s goal of joining the EU, on average. What motivates Georgians to support the Union, or alternatively, to abandon support? A survey experiment included in the latest CRRC/NDI poll suggests potential economic burdens have a modest yet significant effect on support for membership. Results do not support the common belief that a potential military threat from Russia dampens Georgians’ support for the EU.
While many things could divide the public, what do the people think and which groups report more and fewer sources of division? The April 2019 NDI-CRRC poll suggests that there are fewer perceived reasons for division in rural areas and among ethnic minorities.