In this paper, we perform a latent class factor analysis of a panel that involves two waves of data from an annual survey of living conditions in Sweden that were gathered in the years 1994–1995 and 2002–2003. We follow the same 3,149 individuals over both waves, describing them by sex, age group, family type, nationality background, education level and socio-economic class. Further, since the welfare disadvantages included in the analysis are chronic unemployment, economic problems, health problems, experiences of threat or violence, crowded housing, lack of a close friend and sleeping problems, we also have data on exactly which welfare problems each individual in the data set suffers from. In the empirical analysis, latent class factor analysis provides us not only with information on which individual characteristics that are important in the accumulation of welfare problems, but also gives us information on which disadvantages in fact are accumulated. First, we find that welfare problems do cluster. Second, the welfare problems that most often appear at a factor level with several disadvantages are experiences of threat or violence and sleeping problems. Finally, being an immigrant and being single are individual characteristics that turn up most often in factor levels with problem accumulation, whereas there is no distinctive difference between the sexes. However, women seem to be more prone to suffer from experiences of threat or violence and sleeping problems, while men are more likely to suffer from lack of a close friend.
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Due to the fact that there are relatively few studies in sociology that use latent class modeling, we recommend reading Moors and Vermunt (2007) (even though the authors use a somewhat different model than we do), because they pay particular attention to explaining latent class modeling in a non-technical way. Specifically, Moors and Vermunt (2007) use data on value priorities to identify materialist and post-materialist values, based on theories and questionnaires by Inglehart (1971, 1977). A typical materialist value is to maintain a high level of economic growth, whereas a typical post-materialist value is to make cities more beautiful. Moors and Vermunt (2007) fit several models to their data set and are able to identify a class with post-materialist values and three classes with materialist values. If we were to do the same with our data set, we would group the disadvantages we examine into different classes. In their analysis of value priorities in 18 European and North American countries, Moors and Vermunt (2007) move on and link a selection of covariates to the classes found. Continuing the parallel with our data set, this would mean that we would link the covariates we examine to the different classes of welfare problems identified. However, since we perform a latent class factor analysis in this paper, our approach is slightly different. Instead of fitting latent class models to data, and thereafter linking the covariates to membership in these classes, we group welfare problems and categories within covariates together in classes/factors simultaneously. Moreover, we let the covariates be active in the model solution.
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This paper has benefited from comments by Mikael Bask, Jarko Fidrmuc, David Gordon, Björn Halleröd, Kevin Leicht, Kenneth Nelson and an anonymous referee. The usual disclaimer applies.
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Bask, M. Cumulative Disadvantage and Connections Between Welfare Problems. Soc Indic Res 103, 443–464 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-010-9711-7