Jennifer Shore, Jale Tosun
Personally Affected, Politically Disaffected? How Experiences with Public Services Impact Young People’s Political Efficacy

24th International Conference of Europeanists, University of Glasgow, 12. bis 14. Juli 2017

Unemployment at a young age runs the risk of leaving behind numerous scars. Beyond labor market effects, however, experiences of unemployment can also have consequences for how people think about democracy and where they stand vis-à-vis the state. In this study we investigate how young people’s experiences with unemployment agencies can shape levels of external political efficacy, that is, the feeling that decision makers are responsive to citizen needs. We argue that the personal and direct experiences one gathers at this pivotal time in one’s life can also leave their mark on how one thinks about democracy. In order to investigate these relationships, we draw on a unique dataset covering young people with a history of unemployment and their personal interactions with unemployment agencies in Germany to test how encounters at public employment services (PES) are related to political efficacy, finding that perceptions of helpfulness and being treated fairly and with respect increase the likelihood of external political efficacy.