The idea of 'intergenerational cultures of worklessness' has become influential in UK politics and policy, and been used to explain contemporary worklessness and to justify welfare reforms. Workless parents are said to pass on to their children attitudes and behaviours which inculcate 'welfare dependency'. In its strongest version, politicians and welfare practitioners talk confidently of 'three generations of families where no-one has ever worked'; even though no study, bar this one, has investigated whether such families actually exist. Solid evidence for intergenerational cultures of worklessness is elusive so this study tested the idea via interviews with twenty families in Glasgow and Middlesbrough that had been long-term workless. Theories of intergenerational cultures of worklessness feel like 'zombie arguments' - resistant to evidence and social scientific efforts to kill them off. Regardless, the findings of this critical case study are offered as a fresh batch of ammunition with which to try to do so.
- Department of Education and Community Studies - Professor of Education and Social Justice
- School of Education and Professional Development
- Huddersfield Centre for Research in Education and Society