English Issue > 2003

An Annual English Selection - 2003 - 44 - Supplement

“Reducing” Actor’s Rationality : Why Go off the RMI Welfare Program ?

François DUBET Antoine VÉRÉTOUT



pp. 79-108


The “inactivity trap” model is based on a “narrow rationality” postulate according to which recipients of the RMI “decide” not to work because the wages they may expect to earn are lower than the welfare payments they receive. By this postulate, the other essential factor in an individual’s non-employment is his or her length of time on welfare programs ("seniority"). Our analysis of 20,000 RMI recipient files shows that the explanatory value of this model is relatively weak, namely when it comes to what is assumed to be the disincentive effect of receiving the RMI. It also shows that it is inadequate to reason entirely in terms of employment ; the content of available work must also be taken into account. It is therefore necessary to abandon the narrow rationality model in favor of a model of contextualized rationality, the “good reasons” model, as it may be observed in 128 interviews with RMI recipients. On the other hand, because the interviews point up so many different and sometimes contradictory “good reasons”, we may in turn question the relevance and usefulness of this model, which in fact interprets behavior rather than explaining it.



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