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We have chosen to analyse and compare the performance of means-tested income support policies addressed to the so called "able-bodied poor" in six different EU countries at the local urban level. We have selected the able bodied because they are the fastest expanding group of recipients of income support (and in some cases a relatively recent type of recipient) and at the same time, from the point of view of policy definitions also, the most problematic group. Most of the debate concerning the efficacy, and even legitimacy, of minimum income provisions going on at the national as well as at the European level specifically concerns this group.
We focus our analysis not at the national, but at the local urban level for two main reasons: first, most poverty in Europe is urban poverty. In fact, the phenomena of mass unemployment or of vulnerability linked to changing family patterns and behaviours (e.g. marital instability, frailty in old age) are concentrated in cities, rather than in rural contexts. Cities also tend to attract people likely to be, or become, temporarily vulnerable or marginal, both from the point of view of material resources and from the point of view of social integration, i.e. immigrants, particularly (but not solely) third world immigrants. Second, individual cities are distinct and diverse social formations, both spatially and socially, with specific economic and cultural histories, which give rise not only to different forms of vulnerability and poverty, but also to different ways of perceiving and addressing them. Specifically, we hypothesise that within national, and even regional welfare systems there exist local versions which can be distinguished in terms of the actual development and implementation of welfare policies and packages.

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