A "typically" Swiss form of poverty

Auteur Rachel WAGNER
Directeur /trice Claudine Burton-Jeangros
Co-directeur(s) /trice(s) Marion Repetti HES-SO Valais
Résumé de la thèse

This thesis is part of an SNF research project led by Professor Marion Repetti on poverty among older people living in rural mountainous areas in Switzerland and the USA.

If poverty is an economic and social status, it is also an experience. This research project, taking place in two rural and mountainous regions, aims to understand the experience of poor older people in such contexts. The literature shows that there are significant levels of poverty among older people in Switzerland and the USA. Life-course advantages and disadvantages, as well as characteristics such as gender or ethnicity, shape the types of economic deprivation that older people may face. In addition, support from private and public organizations and the social environment is often essential for older populations. Some authors also point to the influence of the geographical environment on the living conditions of the elderly. Nevertheless, current research pays little attention to older people's experience of poverty, particularly in rural areas. Yet a focus on this population's experience of poverty seems essential and could help fill the poverty gap for older people living in a Swiss Alpine canton such as Valais, or the Appalachian region of the USA. These regions are even more interesting because they are both disadvantaged regions within wealthy countries.

However, these two regions differ in one major respect: policies to protect old age and health are more generous in Switzerland than in the USA. This research is based on semi-structured qualitative interviews with 70 (or more) elderly people living in poverty. It explores the economic and social constraints and resources that determine the living conditions of these people in these regions. In doing so, based on the experiential knowledge of the interviewees, it seeks to provide a better understanding of the influence of the welfare state, the economy, the social environment, and major life-course events on the current living conditions of disadvantaged older people in rural areas. This research also pays attention to the role of social status, particularly gender and ethnicity, in such contexts.

It is therefore on the theme of ethnicity and “race” in Switzerland that I chose to focus my PhD, starting from the premise that being racialized has an influence on the conditions and life history of older people. I will demonstrate this in the theoretical part and recontextualize the social treatment of race in Switzerland over the years of our participants' lives. My aim is not to make a systematic comparison between Switzerland and the USA, but rather to use the American interviews and findings to contextualize the Swiss data. This may enable me to define a "typically" Swiss form of poverty. I will conduct the analysis on all levels of experience and will include all dimensions of the project: political, social environment, etc., but with a focus on ethnicity and race.

Statut au début
Délai administratif de soutenance de thèse 2029