Intersectional patterns of social assistance eligibility in Sweden

This study examines patterns in social worker decisions on social assistance eligibility in Sweden. Focusing on intersections between applicants’ gender, country of birth and family situation, factors that statistically anticipate decisions on granting assistance to individuals from different sub-groups were explored. The sample comprises 423 applications and four sets of modified Poisson regression models were conducted. The results strengthen the impression of social assistance assessments as a practice marked by the professionals’ categorizations. In line with previous research, social workers seem to act upon, and reinforce, a male breadwinner model by putting more emphasis on men’s efforts to establish self-support. Female applicants, in turn, are seemingly less likely to be granted assistance if they are assessed as having a problem with abuse of alcohol or illicit drugs. Also, having a family seems altogether to have a negative impact on women’s chances of approval. When considering gender and country of birth, decisions on social assistance eligibility largely reflect patterns of unemployment.