The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies

Livelihood strategies and sense of control/agency among Estonian single mothers.

Field: Sociologi
Project leader: Maarja Saar
Starting year: 2018

The aim of this project is to study the strategies which Estonian single mothers use to manage their social protection (both formal and informal). Social protection has been defined as people’s strategies to cope with social risks in capitalist economies such as unemployment, health and education. In the case of Estonian single mothers, migration will be studied as one of the strategies for social protection. The project hence focuses on both, Estonian single mothers that have stayed in Estonia and those that have moved to Sweden and Finland (among those both the commuters and permanent migrants will be studied). Furthermore, the study will not only focus on the strategies of social protection such as migration, but is also interested in the sense of agency of these single mothers. It therefore aims to compare if migration has had any effect on how capable these single mothers feel they are in handling those very social risks. Acknowledging the subjective nature of social risks has been a blind spot for the research on transnational social protection so far. Furthermore, studies on transnational social protection tend to be more empirically oriented, which has led to undertheoretization of the field. By combining research on social risks and agency with the research on social protection, thisproject aims to further the theoretical discussions in the field.Furthermore, single mothers as well have been a neglected group in European migration studies, which have mostly focused on male migrants. Hence most of the literature has so far seen womenas dependents and focused on their role as care-takers and not as single providers. Furthermore, migration research as well often assumes the existence of nuclear family which is problematic when trying theorize the social protection of other groups.The project will use in depth interviews with single mothers and these interviews will be analyzed by using an adaptation of grounded theory method and qualitative data analysis tool AtlasTi. Such strategy helps in focusing on a more specific topic, but nevertheless discovering multiple connections within the topic.