Making the links: Poverty, ethnicity and social networks

Posted on Monday 21st October 2013

A report entitled 'Making the links: Poverty, ethnicity and social networks' has been published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). This research, part of JRF’s focus on the links between poverty and ethnicity, was carried out by Angus McCabe (Third Sector Research Centre), Alison Gilchrist (Independent), Kevin Harris (Local Level), Asif Afridi (B:rap) and Paul Kyprianou (Praxis CIC), examined how social networks help or hinder people in moving out of poverty and whether this varies within and between different ethnic groups living in urban and rural England.

Key points

  • People’s social networks were shaped by factors including ethnicity, class and gender, but personal characteristics, such as confidence, were also important in developing useful connections. Family and friends were seen as the basis for most relationships but there were low levels of awareness about wider social networks and how they might be used for moving on from poverty.
  • People’s links beyond their own ethnic community were important, but the added dimension of racism could prevent access to ‘mainstream’ influential networks. 
  • Social networks tended to be ‘like with like’, so while they were used to access employment, this was often into low-paid jobs which relied on informal recruitment processes. 
  • Strong bonds with family and friends helped mitigate the effects of poverty. However, developing bridging and linking ties with networks that could move people on from poverty involved risks and scarce energy and resources. 
  • Voluntary, community and faith based organisations were seen as important for facilitating access to cross-cultural networks. 
  • There were examples of good practice in agencies encouraging people to consider how their social networks could help them move out of poverty. However, there was no consistency in practice between agencies.

Read the summary and full report for 'Making the links: Poverty, ethnicity and social networks'