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Great Recession: Social Impact on Spain and the US

Info: 7902 words (32 pages) Dissertation
Published: 13th Dec 2019

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Tagged: EconomicsInternational Studies


The Great Recession brought an economic downfall to many countries around the world. Each country experienced the damaging effects of the worldwide recession in their own way depending on the level of development their country was in at the start of the recession. According to Stiglitz (as citied in García, 2010) the global economic crisis gave life to all existing flawed capitalist systems in some countries which generated additional problems to the preexisting ones. Spain and the United States were two strong developed countries that were affected economically, socially, and politically by the Great Recession. Stiglitz notes (as citied in García, 2010) the financial crisis began in the United States in 2007 once the housing bubble burst it started the total collapse of the housing market, but the banks were unable to sustain such a downfall to the real estate market. Fortunately, for Spain as mentioned by Stiglitz (as citied in García, 2010) their banking regulations were able to support a larger amount of economic hardship, but overall their economy was hit a lot worse than the United States. The 2007 Great Recession affected many parts of the world financially and when analyzing the economic effects of the recession on Spain and the United States there are both some similarities and differences in how this recession affected working-class families, the education and employment of young adults living in both these countries. By examining the effects of the recession for both Spain and the United States, the upswing for both of these economies, their unique cultural standards, the implications for individuals, and families that continue to be affected by the aftermath of the economic recession this information can be used to apply the best practices for the people of Spain.

The Recession’s Impact on Spain

Prior to the economic crisis Spain was prospering and experiencing a tremendous amount of growth by way of its European Economic Community (EEC), also known as the European Union (EU) membership in January 1986 (García, 2010). Spain’s EU membership allowed for their economy to cross paths with other European companies which expanded their economic opportunities (García, 2010). Shortly following Spain’s membership into the EU in 1994 Spain entered the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and along with their membership in the EU they were able to gain additional financial support from the organization’s cohesive funds (García, 2010). By Spain utilizing these memberships to help to jumpstart their economy over the years from 1985-2004 they were able to experience an increase in gross domestic product (GDP) per capital from 72.5% to 90% during this period (García, 2010). This upward movement economically made the globalization of Spain more visible and along with it a large influx of immigrants from 2002 on (García, 2010). By the twenty-first century the introduction of the Euro only strengthened Spain’s economy and sparked the interest of international investors which helped Spain to obtain a triple-A credit rating (García, 2010). According to the IMF-World Economic Outlook (as cited in García, 2010) by 2008 Spain was ranked along with the United States as a country with one of the largest net import of capital. As the economy grew so did the housing market which had a positive impact on the construction industry and the tourist industry (García, 2010). Homeownership was becoming accessible for all social classes with middle class families beginning to invest in second residential properties in the countryside of larger cities and along the Mediterranean coast (García, 2010). Purchasing a home in Spain became a whole family involvement in which parents of a new couple would help the couple financially with purchasing a home which helped to enforce the solidarity of the family unit as this kind of financial support became a custom of the culture (García, 2010). This time of prosperity was brought to a halt once the housing market crashed and various policy choices were made that made a huge impact on Spain’s economy causing them to fall economically along with other countries that were affected by the global recession.

The economic crisis in Spain began due to a combination of factors coming together helped to expose some of the fragile economic areas Spain had in place prior to the start of the recession. The Socialist Party (PSOE) was governing Spain beginning in 2004 and was in power once the Great Recession began in Spain in 2008 and although the Spanish government emplaced an economic stimulus plan by the end of 2008 it could not support the devastating effects of the recession (Schofield & Caballer, 2015). The housing bubble created in Spain effected their country in a unique way due to the different policy choices made by the government and the different institutions that help to regulate its economy (García, 2010). The Central Bank of Spain had regulations in place that prevented the banking system from creating “subprime mortgages” but did not stop the banks from utilizing a large amount of credit to overcapacity within the housing market (García, 2010). This housing bubble left numerous homes for sale and new homes being built the year the housing market crashed (García, 2010). The path-dependent practice that underlined homeownership made family members feel indebted to one another, especially family members of medium-low income groups due to the relatively low support they could provide (García, 2010). Due to the imbalance of the supply and demand within the housing market it left a copious amount of bank credit to go unpaid due to numerous amount of unsold homes in the country (García, 2010). The crash of Spain’s housing market helped to bring about much more economic despair amongst the county.

When the housing bubble busted it played both a direct and indirect roll in the nearly 2.3 million jobs that were lost and the large amount of private debt Spain gained as a result. Spain began experiencing a rise in their unemployment rate as early as June 2007 and it was projected that half of all young people that made up the labor force would become jobless (Addabbo, Rodríguez-Modroño, & Gálvez-Muñoz, 2013). Since Spain is a de facto federal county there are some variations in which the bursting of the housing bubble can be seen when observing its different regions (García, 2010). For example, according to the Spanish Statistical Institute (as cited in Addabbo et al., 2013) Cataluña had a total unemployment rate of 6.55% while Madrid had an unemployment rate of 6.30%. Spain’s labor market was hit with unemployment rates rising even higher than other countries that were in a worse off economic state during the recession (Verick & Islam, 2010). Young people ages 16-24 were the most affected by the economic crisis and by April of 2010 this age group had an unemployment rate of 48.1% (García, 2010). As a result of the economic crisis young people had to gain continued support from their family which reinforced the existing path-dependent custom within Spain (García, 2010). Young workers were more likely to hold temporary jobs compared to the rest of the workforce and by 2013 65% of young workers in Spain accounted for the fixed term jobs in Spain while young workers in other European countries accounted for around 42.6% of fixed term jobs (Addabbo et al., 2015). Young people facing such hard times during these important work and life transitions have been analyzed greatly in literature and are known to bring about great consequences, such as reducing a future career, training, health, and other income opportunities when experiencing struggles in these areas early on in life (Addabbo et al., 2015). The economic crisis left many young people stunted within the labor force which also delayed other life milestones or delayed the start of gaining long term employment. For example, during the crisis the average estimated age of young people leaving their parent’s home had increased among both women and men from the year 2007 to 2012 (Addabbo et al., 2015). Women went from leaving their parent’s home at the average of 27.5 in 2007 to leaving at the age of 27.9 in 2012 while men went from leaving their parent’s home at the average of 29.2 in 2007 to 29.9 in 2012 (Addabbo et al., 2015). Despite the start of the recession data from the United Nations (UN) Statistics Division (2012) showed that even during this economic crisis people of Spain ages 16-19 and 20-24 increased in their participation in secondary education. In 2007 people ages 16-19 made up 28.10% of individuals pursuing a secondary education and had increased their participation rate to 52.74% by 2009 (UN Statistics Division, 2012). People ages 20-24 in 2007 made up for 15.78% of individuals pursuing a secondary education and their participation increased to 34.70% by 2009 (UN Statistics Division, 2012). Despite the financial barriers young people kept education a priority during this crisis, but when viewing the genders separately there are some unique characteristics that make the impact of the Great Recession differ among men and women making the crisis’s impact harsher for one gender than the other.

Women and men are affected differently by the different political and economic circumstances that arise and the devastating effects of the Great Recession which yielded different results for women and men within the labor force (Addabbo et al., 2013). By the end of 2012 the Spanish had around 6 million people unemployed with unemployment rates among women rising to 26.55% and 22.58% for men by the end of 2012 (Addabbo et al., 2013). The differentiation in unemployment could be due to the fact that women and men hold different positions that in many cases are both unbalanced and unequal among economic resources (Addabbo et al., 2013). These economic resources that remain unequal among the genders include areas such as, employment, credit, land, time and work sharing, and positions of power (Addabbo et al., 2013). Women are commonly put in a disadvantage within the labor force by mainly starting in positions of temporary and part-time (Addabbo et al., 2015). Women have other life factors that act as additional barriers for them as they try to advance in the workforce, such as child care and domestic labor. These factors have been identified as major obstacles for women working in Spain’s labor force due to the lack of resources within Spain to help bridge the gap concerning these life crises.

The Spanish labor market had been positive since the 1980s, but evidence has shown that women’s participation in the workforce depended on their husband’s position in the workforce (Addabbo et al., 2013). Women not only have to work around the position of their husband, but also the well-being of their children once they decide to enter the workforce. Literature has identified that a crucial role that promotes the continuity in labor supply over the life cycle and increases labor among women is based on the availability of childcare services (Addabbo et al., 2013). There is a shortage in the coverage of childcare services among the different regions of Spain, especially childcare services for children ages 0-2 (Addabbo et al., 2013). The lack of childcare services for children ages 0-2 could possibly delay a woman from getting back into the work force earlier, especially if they lack the family support to help care for the child. During the year the Great Recession began the Spanish Statistical Institute (as citied in Addabbo et al., 2013) noted there was almost double or more degree of coverage child care services for children ages 0-5 than that of children ages 0-2. According to the Spanish Statistical Institute (as citied in Addabbo et al., 2013) the Cataluña region in the year of 2006-2007 had a 32.02% degree of coverage for childcare services for children ages 0-2 and had slight increase in 2010-2011 bringing the coverage to 34.30% (Addabbo et al., 2013). The coverage for child care of children ages 0-5 living in Cataluña in the year 2006-2007 had a 63.74% degree of coverage which is almost double the coverage for children ages 0-2 (Addabbo et al., 2013). The Spanish Statistical Institute (as citied in Addabbo et al., 2013) identified this same trend in degree of coverage of childcare services carried into the years 2010-2011 across all regions of Spain. The lack of childcare services for children ages 0-2 during a time of such economic turmoil only set back women and families from being active members in the workforce. Childcare services were not the only area that left women in a predicament in increasing their opportunities within the workforce, but also their educational opportunities. Alonso-Sanz, Martinez, and Cabezas (2015) analyzed the institutional websites of 75 Spanish universities to see if they provided infant schools and only fourteen universities provided such services. Even within the universities of Spain there is a lack of childcare services which compounds with the already existing shortage of childcare for younger children. Students attending these universities have reported a high need for the installation of nursey school within the universities (Alonso-Sanz et al., 2015). In a qualitative study conducted by Alosno-Sanz et al. (2015) utilizing 27 students from the University of Valencia and 46 students of the University of Alicante Master’s Degree in Primary Education identified from their narratives showed that 80.65% students of the University of Valencia and 100% of students of the University of Alicante sample reported the need of nursey schools in universities in order improve the student-life balance in Spain. Along with the lack of childcare domestic work also, stood as a factor for women in Spain that were active in the labor force or trying to pursue other opportunities to better their skills.

As in many other cultures around the world women help with a lot of the household chores and women of Spain held this same role. A 2010 Spanish Time Use Survey (as cited in Addabbo et al., 2013) showed that even during times of high unemployment a couple’s time dedicated to domestic and care work remained unbalanced. The 2010 Spanish Time Use Survey (as cited in Addabbo et al., 2013) results found that an unemployed Spanish man increases their time spent doing domestic and care work by only one hour per day bringing him from an average of two hours and twenty-one minutes to three hours and twenty-three minutes. A Spanish woman that is unemployed increases her time doing domestic work by two hours per day bringing her average from three hours and forty-six minutes to five hours and thirty-five minutes (Addabbo et al., 2013). Even during times of economic hardship women in Spain are held to the same standards which could act as an economic barrier for women during such a crisis. Also, the Great Recession had a similar negative impact on the United States, but a combination of its government’s policies and their unique economic condition yielded slightly different results.

The Recession’s Impact on the United States (5)

Just as Spain fell economically due to the housing market crashing the United States’ economy also crumbled from the same fate. The rapid increase in securitization of mortgage bonds were the attributes that made this housing bubble unique in the way it disrupted the U.S. housing market and its foreign investors (Verick & Islam, 2010). Sub-prime mortgages were one of the main causes of the crisis, but it was not the sole cause of the crisis. According to Astley (as citied in Verick and Islam, 2010) once the Federal Reserve started increasing interest rates the delinquency rate on home loans began to rise starting in 2006 and gained more momentum in 2007. By mid-2007, the United States housing bubble peaked which caused many investments tied to the real estate market to drop which had a negative impact on financial institutions worldwide (Shahrokhi, 2011). According to Pfeffer, Danziger, and Schoeni’s research and Wolff, Owens, and Burak’s research (as cited in Kalleberg and Wachter, 2017) identified that during the Great Recession it had a larger effect on nonwhites, especially African American and Latino homeowners which were more likely than whites to face default on their mortgages or foreclosures on their homes due to the adverse effects of the housing market. All these economic factors came together to begin the Great Recession, but its impact stretched beyond the economy and the housing market and caused issues with employment, family structure, and education within the U.S.

The rate of employment was highly effected in the U.S. during the Great Recession and changed the income of many Americans. The labor market was hit badly with unemployment rates rising even higher than other countries that were in a worse economic state (Verick & Islam, 2010).Warner (2010) noted that government data identified the rate of long-term unemployment, joblessness lasting six months or more, was at its highest level since the mid-1940s. A Pew Research poll in 2010 indicated that more than half of all adults in the U.S. workforce had experienced some type of “work-related hardship” which included a period of unemployment, a decrease in pay, cutback in work hours and/or an involuntary change to a part-time work position, since the recession beginning in December 2007 (Warner, 2010).The Great Recession had a negative impact on the family structure which made families have to adjust to the economic effects of the recession.

The economic effects of the Great Recession brought on the worse economic conditions the U.S. had seen in years and its negative effect impacted the family structure in many ways. The Great Recession affected all social classes to some capacity, but the middle class suffered the most financially and the Pew poll found that almost half of people that completed the survey that responded being unemployed for more than six months, also responded experiencing strained family relationships (Warner, 2010). The increase in unemployment, mortgage foreclosure, and other economic effects caused social consequences to arise for American families (Schneider, 2015). Some of these social consequences were couples deciding to delay getting a divorced, families doubling-up in households, and the rate of cohabitation increasing due to the recession’s economic effects (Kalleber & Wachter, 2017; Schneider, 2015). The increased levels of uncertainty and anxiety caused by the recession, also affected families in terms of deciding to bear a child during the Great Recession (Schneider, 2015). Schoon and Mortimer (2017) noted the period between ages 18 to 25 has shown to be very sensitive to the impact of economic crises and economic uncertainty. U.S. youth was another group that experienced some of the direct effects of the recession. The U.S. youth were affected tremendously by the Great Recession as well by having to encounter major issues while trying to establish themselves in the labor market, such as rises in unemployment, working for low wages, frequent job turnover, having to work part-time or temporary positions, and working in jobs unrelated to their work experience (Schoon & Mortimer, 2017). Experiencing transitional issues such as these can possibly go on to effect parts of an individual’s character, such as their self-esteem. Not only was the family structure disturbed by the aftermath of the Great Recession, but the education system was also negatively impacted by the recession.

The education system was another sector that was impacted by the Great Recession and brought on other barriers for the people of the U.S. The Great Recession effected both the supply and demand of higher education by postsecondary institutions experiencing cuts in multiple sources of funding including endowment returns and government support which affected tuition prices (Long, 2015). On the demand side families have suffered a great loss of income during the recession partly due to the increasing unemployment rates during this economic crisis (Long, 2015). The burst of the housing bubble also played a partial role in the reduction in wealth and capital among families as home ownership and equity levels declined which may also have impacted college enrollment rates and a family’s ability to pay for school (Long, 2015). Although, colleges and universities have suffered from reductions in government support by way of state appropriations back during the recession of the early 1990s the many changes that were brought on by the Great Recession along with college prices being raised higher than the annual family income is what made the Great Recession different from previous recessions (Long, 2015). During the time of the recession the college enrollment continued to rise despite the negative financial changes surrounding education by 2010 the total enrollment at title IV institution reached 21.3 million which includes both two-year institutions, four-year public institutions, and four-year private institutions (Barrow & Davis, 2012). The Great Recession impacted the education system for both the intuitions as well as the overall cost of attendance for people wishing to enroll in higher education. The increase in college enrollment shows the perseverance of individuals living in the U.S. to continue to better their personal skills during a time of economic turmoil. The economic turmoil caused by the Great Recession would take the efforts of the country’s governments effected by it to end the worldwide recession and bring economic stability to its citizens.

The Upswing of Spain and the United States

Spain worked to better their economy through policy and economic changes to bring themselves back to a strong standing economy. From 1994 to 2008 several new policies were created to support wage and price moderation to meet the needs of the Maastricht Treaty in order to decrease the unemployment rate within Europe (Congregado, Golpe, Van Stel, 2011). The policies that were introduced slowly helped to reduce the deficit in order to help Spain exit the economic crisis (Salmon, 2017). Two successive governments the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party led by José Zapatero during 2008 to 2011 and the conservative People’s Party led by Mariano Rajoy from 2011 to 2015 helped to generate many of the policies to help Spain exit the recession (Salmon, 2017). Spain adopted austerity policies and the central government gained more control over public spending of lower tiers of administration in order to have Spain exit the aftermath of the Great Recession (Salmon, 2017). A series of stimulus packages were developed to make Spain in compliance with the monetary policy action set out by the European Central Bank in efforts to reduce interest rates (Salmon, 2017). The exiting plan to make Spain’s economy stable again was a lengthy process and as time went on the population of Spain began to change as Spain entered a time of depopulation.

After the steps were taken to better the economy of Spain after the devastating economic effects of the Great Recession there has been an imbalance between immigration and emigration that continues to weaken the economy and labor activity within Spain. Barcelona a major city of Spain during the 1990s went through a period of depopulation, but after 2001 the population increased in all neighborhoods, especially in neighborhoods with high levels of unemployment (Rodríguez-Sanz, Gotsens, Marí-Dell’Olmo, Mehdipanah, & Borrel, 2016).  As many Spaniards left the neighborhoods of the Barcelona area between the years 1991 to 2011 during the same period they received the highest number of foreigners (Rodríguez-Sanz et al., 2016). The imbalance of Spaniards and foreigners continued to remain unbalanced as Spain continued to work their way out of the economic crisis. The Secretary of Immigration and Emigration noted a positive balance of 30,504 people in the migratory balance for the first half of 2016 (“Opposition Criticizes in The Senate,” 2017). Young people have accounted for a majority of the negative migratory balance and according to De Corral specifically young people ages of 15-29 remains to be equally negative in the first half of 2016 and accounts for 4,563 of Spaniards abroad (“Opposition Criticizes in The Senate,” 2017). The impact of the Great Recession continues to effect many well developed countries, such as Spain and the U.S. still today despite the economic changes brought about in these countries in order to recover from the recession.

The U.S. utilized various political and economic policies to jumpstart their economy after the Great Recession. Like many other economies worldwide the United States utilized fiscal stimulus, monetary policy expansion and institutional bailouts to end the recession (Shahrokhi, 2011). In mid-February 2009, U.S. Congress passed a $789 billion stimulus package to help fund for new infrastructure, education, health, and the environment (Salvatore, 2010). The fiscal policies that were passed were used to support the financial institutions and the economy by providing direct funding and gearing monetary policy toward creating lower interest rates and providing unlimited amounts of liquidity to commercial banks, mortgage companies, and investment banks (Miller & Choi, 2014). The Large-Scale Asset Purchase program, also known as the quantitative easing was the primary tool used to provide liquidity to financial institutions in four phases (Miller & Choi, 2014). The four phases of this program allowed for more targeted purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities and long-term Treasury securities which were weakened greatly by the recession (Miller & Choi, 2014). Even after the government’s efforts to rectify the effects of the Great Recession there were some areas that needed more invasive changes in order to return them back to the standards prior to the recession.

The recovery period of the recession was a slow process and over the course of the lengthy recovery period many subgroups continued to be effected by the aftermath of the Great Recession. The unemployment rate had fallen close to pre-recession levels, but it took around ten years after the Great Recession for the unemployment rate to lower the unemployment rate which left many workers marginally attached and discouraged (Kalleberg & Wachter, 2017). Even years later after the recovery period a fraction of workers continued reporting involuntarily working part-time for economic reasons remained high and in March 2016 9.8% individuals among the total labor force responded being discouraged, marginally attached, or involuntarily working part-time (Kalleberg & Wachter, 2017). This discouragement in the labor forced spilled over into further damaging organized labor which had been experiencing a decline that began a half a century ago was now experiencing a 24% decrease in participation among unionized U.S. wage-earning and salaried members employed in public and private sectors (Kalleberg & Wachter, 2017). The extended length in time it took for the U.S. to recover from the recession caused individuals to give up hope on the labor market which caused other components of the labor market to become effected as well. The idles and beliefs of the individuals living in the countries affected by the Great Recession are important to analyze in order to have a better understanding of the best practices and theoretical models to apply to these individuals and families.

Family Structure of the Spanish Culture

 The customs of the Spanish culture come together to create a strong sense of togetherness within the family unit. As stated previously concerning the path-dependent custom that underlies purchasing homes exemplifies the strong familial ties that surround this culture. Religion is a major part of the Spanish identity and Latinos and Hispanics living in the United States are expanding their affiliation beyond Catholicism and have been increasing their numbers within the Protestant religion or becoming unaffiliated with religion altogether (Sue, Rasheed, and Rasheed, 2016). Also, there are some other cultural concepts of the Latino and Hispanic culture that come together to form the foundation of Latino and Hispanic life, such as the family structure and gender role expectations.

The family structure that underlie the Hispanic culture provide a natural hierarchy within the family structure. Hispanic families consider extended family and nonblood relatives just as important as their immediate family and each of these members play an important role within the family (Sue et al., 2016).  For example, Lopez-Baez and Ruiz (as cited in Sue et al., 2016) mentions how grandparents fulfill the role of providing wisdom and guidance while mothers are the abnegation within the family. Lopez-Baez and Ruiz (as cited in Sue et al., 2016) identified that fathers within the Hispanic culture hold the responsibility of heading the family, children are expected to play the role of obedience, and godparents act as a source of resourcefulness. Each member of the family has a deep sense of family obligation which is a component of collectivistic culture meaning that family needs come before individual needs (Sue et al., 2016). According to Lopez-Baez (as cited in Sue et al., 2016) in traditional Hispanic families older family members, parents, and males normally hold the authority within the family with the father figure being the primary point of authority. Hispanic families are built upon patriarchal cultural ideals where males have the dominant role within the family (Sue et al., 2016). Also in traditional Hispanic families according to Lefkowitz, Romo, Corona, Au, and Sigman (as citied in Sue et al., 2016) children were expected to be obedient, stay out of family decisions, and expected to help the family financially. In return of children working to help the family financially parents reciprocate by providing financial assistance to children through young adulthood and even till marriage (Sue et al., 2016). The familial ties between members of a Hispanic family spread wide and parental support lasts well after an individual’s childhood which helps to provide a strong foundation for each person. Individuals and families within the U.S. hold a different set of idles that provide a unique basis to their culture values that help form the framework of their family structure. 

Family Structure of the United States

The United States is a country that continues to become more diverse as the years go on. Although the United States is such a diverse nation there are specific customs that are held due to the westernized perspective the country possesses. The cultural values of the US have its strongest influences root from immigrants from European cultures with Germany, Ireland, and Britain being the most influential (Doran & Littrell, 2012). Schwartz’s analysis (as cited in Doran and Littrell, 2012) of U.S. culture values was able to identify ten individual cultural values related closely to the middle class population. Schwartz (as citied in Doran and Littrell, 2012) identified the following ten basic U.S. cultural values: self-direction, stimulation, hedonism, achievement, power, security, conformity, tradition, benevolence, and universalism. Among these cultural values self-direction, universalism and benevolence have the highest motivational value among the middle class population (Doran and Littrell, 2012). Although, Schwartz has identified some of the mainstream cultural values of the U.S. several cross-cultural psychologists have identified a difference in measures in individualism and collectivism among ethnic groups vary (Mooij & Beniflah, 2017). Cross-cultural psychologists have normally categorized African, Asian, and Hispanic Americans as being more collectivistic than European Americans, but other studies have shown to not support these assumptions (Mooij & Beniflah, 2017). It is important to note that even with a set of mainstream cultural values the many different ethnic groups within the U.S. vary in the way these cultural values may be expressed. During the course of the study abroad the values and personal experiences of the individuals I came across expressed various beliefs that may be used to impact my practice and views on policies within the U.S.

Perceptions of Stake Holders

The economic crisis that hit Spain back in 2007 is still having an effect on the economy and the people of Spain. Melania’s presentation highlighted the gradual growth of Spain and its major decisions that led to their economic downfall that resulted in an increase in emigration and increased the focus on vulnerable groups, such as uneducated, young people, single mothers with young children, and women over 40 (Macip-Billbe, 2017). In order to understand the needs of these diverse groups it is important to note the unique barriers that these individual groups may experience within a particular region. For example, a single mother with children living in a rural area in Spain may experience an even more immediate need to find childcare in close proximity in order to be able to gain employment. As stated earlier childcare for children ages 0-2 is very limited throughout the regions of Spain making it difficult for single mothers and working families to be able to receive childcare for their young children. During the study abroad the importance of understanding the way in which services are provided within the context of Spain by viewing how various organizations serve people living in the community. These experiences provided a great example in how a set of policies and practices are influenced by culture and how these components come together to provide a safety net for individuals living in Spain.

During our visit to the Caritas Parroquial Nuestra Señora de la Misericordía provided insight in how churches and other helping organizations come together to make a unique and dense network of services for the people of Spain. As I learned from our discussion with the representatives of the church they stressed the importance of the safety net within Spain and how the presence of the safety net made it nearly impossible for the poor to be living on the street. Many churches and other local organizations work together to provide shelter, food, and other basic needs to people in need living in the community. The priest and nuns of this church shared with us that church even extends their services to immigrants as well once they enter Spain’s borders. Spain’s immigration policies support the incoming of immigrants by having an open door policy that allows immigrants to automatically gain health insurance and for children to be able to be automatically enrolled into school without hardly running into any issues. The knowledge gained from the speakers at the Caritas Parroquial Nuestra Señora de la Misericordía in how the network of churches, organizations, and concerned citizens come together along with the policies placed by Spain’s government to serve the community present great examples that can positively influence my practice and views of policy in the U.S.

The collaboration of local organizations and presence of a strong safety net are qualities that can have a positive impact on my practice and view of policies in various ways. By knowing the details of the at-risk group I am working with in my practice I will be able to utilize the networks that they hold close ties to, such as religion and family to be used as a resource when helping them to resolve problems. Just as the Caritas Parroquial Nuestra Señora de la Misericordía utilized their connections with other community partners and community members they were able to provide their clients with more resources while, also using the strong personal connection of religion to assist individuals during hardships the same procedure can be beneficial when working within my future practice. Spain’s various policies that help to create the strong safety net for its citizens and immigrants pushes me to seek better understanding on the various policies surrounding important areas such as health care and social services in order to better serve future clients as well as advocate for these vulnerable groups at a macro level. Also, the study abroad has helped provide me some insight on the best practices and theoretical models to help individuals and families living in Spain facing economic crises.

Implications for Individuals and Families

The unique characteristics of the Spanish culture and the functioning of its government are important factors to weigh in when using certain theoretical models of practice within the geographical context of Spain. When analyzing economic crises such as the economic issues that occurred during the Great Recession there are some practices pertaining to Spain that would yield a more positive outcome for individuals and families that find themselves faced with these issues. The collectivistic culture of the people of Spain naturally provides a good source of support for individuals and families due to its principle of putting family before one’s self. In order to maximize on these strong connections in an individual’s life it would be best to utilize a strengths perspective and empowerment perspective. Working from these theoretical models are very people-centered which will allow the best practices to be utilized in order to help the individual recognize their personal skills to better their own situation. According to Cox (2006), during times when there are high levels of unemployment and underemployment the best approach stems from the human rights perspective and social development principles when planning an intervention for populations facing the kind of economic situations such as the problems people affected by the Great recession had experienced. Also, when using these theoretical models, it is important to consider how these models best work in the geographical context of Spain for these individuals and families.

The rural and urban area of Spain present its own unique set of barriers that must be addressed when utilizing a strengths perspective or empowerment perspective with individual and families. For example, a rural area of Spain may be more limited in childcare and job opportunities which can have a more damaging effect on a single mother with young children than a married woman with strong family support. Within both of these regions the work-life balance differs due to the difference in lifestyles when living in a rural area versus an urban area of Spain. On the other hand, an urban area naturally provides more opportunity for individuals to better their situation, but the person may need a service provider that has a vast knowledge of the different resources available in the area.


The Great Recession brought on an economic crisis that not even well developed countries such as Spain and the U.S. were prepared for. Both the U.S. and Spain had their housing market bubble reach their limit which caused a financial disruption country wide for banks and the housing market. The economic crisis increased the unemployment rate, disrupted the family structure within both of these countries, and the education system. Spain’s high rate of unemployment had an even more severe impact on women and the young people of Spain because of the life situations they face which were intensified during the period of the Great Recession. After the establishment of various policies and stimulus packages both Spain and the U.S. were able to bring their economy back to pre-recession standards.

The recovery period for both Spain and U.S. were lengthy processes as the recovery process went on Spain experienced an imbalance between immigration and emigration due to extended time it took to get Spain’s economy back to what it used to be. The U.S. experienced further effects to its labor force and unions because of the extended amount of time it took to recover from the recession. The unique family structure of Spain that is rooted in collectivistic ideals and patriarchal principles help to form the hierarchy of the family. The U.S. presents cultural values that have its roots set in the European culture, but the different ethnic groups of within the U.S. vary in the way these cultural values may be expressed. From the study abroad experience the information that was shared by the representatives of the Caritas Parroquial Nuestra Señora de la Misericordía about Spain’s safety net and open-door policy for immigrants can influence my practice and view of policy in the U.S. From my analysis of the Spanish culture and the impact an economic crisis can generate I have identified a strengths perspective and empowerment perspective will generate the best practices to help an individuals and families through any economic problems that may occur in the future.


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