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Klara HusseniusAdjunkt

Om mig

Jag är disputerad i socialt arbete och har min grundutbildning i utredningssociologi och genusvetenskap. Mina primära forskningsintressen rör socialpolitik, fattigdom och intersektionella perspektiv på försörjning.

Den 3 mars 2023 försvarade jag min avhandling "Differentiating the Poor: Patterns of Discrimination in Decision-Making on Social Assistance Eligibility". Avhandlingen, som bland annat bygger på ett vinjettexperiment där cirka 1000 handläggare deltog, belyser socialt arbete med ekonomiskt bistånd ur ett diskrimineringsperspektiv. Variationer i socialarbetares bedömningar analyseras med fokus på faktorer relaterade till de sökandes kön, familj och etnicitet.


Delkurssamordnare för kursen Fattigdom och välfärd I, som ingår i socionomprogrammets fjärde termin. Även engagerad i kursen Fattigdom och välfärd II som ges på avancerad nivå, samt i kurs- och undervisningsmoment som rör forskningsmetod och självständiga arbeten.


I urval från Stockholms universitets publikationsdatabas

  • Differentiating the Poor: Patterns of Discrimination in Decision-Making on Social Assistance Eligibility

    2023. Klara Hussénius.

    Avhandling (Dok)

    Access to the Swedish welfare state’s last safety net, social assistance, is ultimately determined through discretionary decision-making by social workers. This dissertation examines intersectional patterns and discriminatory bias in social workers’ assessments about social assistance eligibility. Focusing on factors related to applicants’ gender, family and ethnicity, the project comprises four studies, all of which highlight patterns regarding which applicants assessed as being eligible for support. Altogether, the project contributes to an expanded understanding of discriminatory tendencies in how social assistance policies are given practical meaning by the professionals that bring them into force.

    The first study builds on data covering all social assistance eligibility decisions implemented in 25 municipalities during one calendar month in 2012 (n=472). The remaining three studies build on data from a vignette experiment conducted in 2018, in which just over 1,000 social workers from 19 municipalities, including Sweden’s three largest cities, participated. 

    Results from both sources of data confirm the impression left by previous research that social assistance assessments are gendered. They show that the likelihood of granting assistance is determined through different standards for men and women. In the view of current knowledge gaps, an important contribution lies in bringing the issue of ethnicity bias to light. The results from the vignette experiment indicate that applicants with Arabic-sounding names are responded to with more conditionality than applicants with Swedish-sounding names, and that discriminatory biases related ethnicity are highly intertwined with gender biases.

    By raising much-needed questions about the assessment of couples, the project also draws attention to the dissonance between the Swedish welfare state’s gender equality regime and the conditions for accessing social assistance. The results indicate that moral judgments about applicants’ gendered family roles affect social workers’ propensity to grant support to couples, and that such judgments take form through ethnicity bias. 

    In terms of theory, the dissertation draws upon feminist and postcolonial perspectives on social policy as well as a street-level bureaucracy perspective on frontline work. Social assistance is understood as part of the welfare state’s wider politics of redistribution, and the quantitative patterns formed by social workers’ individual acts are seen in the light of structural inequalities. The dissertation presents a conceptual model for thinking about social assistance eligibility, emphasising uncertainty as an inescapable dimension of means-testing. A central argument is that eligibility issues decided at the street level cannot be separated from ongoing discretionary processes of policy implementation. While the risk of discrimination in social assistance assessments is inevitable, it tends to be concealed by the administrative arrangements through which policy comes to matter. 

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  • Eligibility Deliberations at the Frontline: Uncertainty and Ethnicity Bias in Decision-Making about Social Assistance

    2023. Klara Hussénius, Hugo Stranz, Åke Bergmark.

    This study contributes to an understanding of the role of uncertainty in frontline decision-making about social assistance (SA) eligibility. Assessments by social workers of two vignettes (n=927; n=936) describing fictional SA applicants were analysed. The names of the fictional applicants were randomly varied so that the respondents assessed vignettes with either Swedish- or Arabic-sounding names. The respondents were asked to assess eligibility for SA, and to specify if any alternative assessment would be possible to make. Data was analysed by means of directed content analysis of free-text answers on the one hand, and crosstabulations and multilevel regression models on the other. 

    The results show, first, that the social workers related the possibility of alternative assessments to varying definitions of what the uncertainty problem was, why it had arisen and how it could be solved. These aspects are discussed in terms of four to some extent overlapping rationales. Second, the results show that ethnicity bias may be involved both in how suitable for eligibility respondents assess SA applicants to be, and how definite or uncertain they perceive their own assessments to be. For both vignettes, the choice to deny SA to applicants with Arabic-sounding names was most clearly linked to perceived uncertainty. 

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  • Social assistance assessments of couple households

    2021. Klara Hussénius. International Journal of Social Welfare


    Social work professionals’ assessments of social assistance (SA) eligibility for a heterosexual couple with a baby are examined. Professionals (n = 899) spread over 43 social service offices in 19 Swedish municipalities assessed a vignette. According to the vignette, one of the parents abstained from paid work to take parental leave, which caused the couple's need for SA. Two vignette dimensions were varied: the couple's ethnicity (Swedish/Arabic) and gendered family roles (mother/father going on parental leave). Data were analysed using multilevel logistic regression modelling. The results show that the combination of the couple's gendered family roles and ethnicity seems to have bearing on the assessments. Professionals were most prone to grant SA to couples with Swedish names where the mother went from work to parental leave. The lowest granting rate was found in assessments of couples with the same gender setting and Arabic names.

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  • Gender and ethnicity in social assistance assessments of single applicants with substance abuse problems

    2021. Klara Hussenius. European Journal of Social Work


    In Sweden, trained social workers ultimately determine the right to social assistance (SA). This paper examines how a substance-abusing SA applicant’s gender and ethnicity affect assessments on eligibility. It further addresses whether professionals’ gender and migration background have bearing for such patterns. Social work professionals (n = 910) spread over 43 social service offices in 19 Swedish municipalities conducted assessments based on a vignette. Four versions of the vignette were used, in which the name of the applicant was varied. The names were two Swedish-sounding names and two Arabic-sounding names: one of each gender respectively. Data were analysed by means of cross tabulations and multilevel logistic regression analysis. The Swedish-sounding names were linked to a higher chance of granting compared to the Arabic-sounding names, whereas females more often were seen as eligible than males. The major finding was the combined impact of gender and ethnicity: Applicants attributed with an Arabic-sounding male name were less often seen as eligible than those with a Swedish-sounding female name. This bias was specifically manifest among female professionals. Further, native-born professionals generally viewed the applicant as eligible to a higher extent than foreign-born.

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  • Intersectional patterns of social assistance eligibility in Sweden

    2019. Klara Hussénius. Nordic Social Work Research


    This study examines patterns in social worker decisions on social assistance eligibility in Sweden. Focusing on intersections between applicants’ gender, country of birth and family situation, factors that statistically anticipate decisions on granting assistance to individuals from different sub-groups were explored. The sample comprises 423 applications and four sets of modified Poisson regression models were conducted. The results strengthen the impression of social assistance assessments as a practice marked by the professionals’ categorizations. In line with previous research, social workers seem to act upon, and reinforce, a male breadwinner model by putting more emphasis on men’s efforts to establish self-support. Female applicants, in turn, are seemingly less likely to be granted assistance if they are assessed as having a problem with abuse of alcohol or illicit drugs. Also, having a family seems altogether to have a negative impact on women’s chances of approval. When considering gender and country of birth, decisions on social assistance eligibility largely reflect patterns of unemployment.

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  • Problematiska mönster eller enskilda problem?

    2015. Klara Hussénius (et al.).

    I Sverige finns ett anmäkningsvärt stort utrymme för enskilda handläggares subjektivitet i bedömningen av socialbidragsklienter. Tidigare studier baserade på vinjettdata tyder på att handläggarnas bedömningar av klienternas problem och hjälpbehov tenderar att reproducera traditionella könsroller. Samtidigt saknas kunskap om betydelsen av kön i bedömningar av riktiga klienter. I den här studien analyseras könsrelaterade mönster i enkätdata om 138 handläggares bedömningar av psykosociala och hälsorelaterade problem hos 471 socialbidragsklienter. Resultaten påvisar bedömningsmönster som kan hänföras till både klienternas och handläggarnas kön, och uppmärksammar att dessa nivåer samverkar i bedömningar som rör alkoholmissbruk. Vidare framkommer att betydelsen av kön tycks samverka med andra sociala faktorer som ålder och födelseland. 

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