Between the state and the kin: one-person household social security in Latvia


  • Kristīne Rolle Riga Stradins University
  • Agita Lūse Rīga Stradiņš University



One-person household is the dominant type of household in today’s Latvia. Research on kinship in contemporary Europe suggests that weak kinship ties are characteristic of institutionally strong countries that provide an individual with social security when he or she becomes incapacitated. However, the statistical data on Latvia show that of all household types, one-person households are the most exposed to the risk of poverty, especially those of people over 64 years of age. The article provides an insight into the ways in which the policies implemented by various political regimes in Latvia over the last one hundred years have promoted the formation of an economically independent individual, thus directly and indirectly weakening family and kinship ties. Drawing on our ethnographic data, we explore the situations when the state's welfare system no longer ensures an individual's social security: are family and kinship ties likely to be re-established in such circumstances? The fieldwork findings suggest that those whose next of kin needs additional assistance or care, face a dilemma: either to provide support to the vulnerable relative while compromising their own economic stability, or to delegate their responsibility for the relative to the state. However, our data also show: while the state does not guarantee social security for some vulnerable groups, its social insurance system nevertheless has to a great degree impacted the sense of moral obligation in intergenerational relationships.






Social Evolution of Europe