Political, Social, And Economic Setting
At the beginning of the twentieth century Romania was an agrarian society, with a traditional social structure that was not given to rapid progress (Zamfir 2001). The communist development program implemented between the 1950s and the 1970s brought significant changes by emphasizing urbanization and industrial modernization. Officially promoted by the regime was the uniform distribution of the rather limited resources available, the goal being to create an "egalitarian" society in which each member had decent living circumstances (Zamfir 2001). However, communism provided Romania with an economy that was underdeveloped and inefficient. Based on a state-owned monopoly of the internal market, modest technologies, and large enterprises, Romanian economy suffered from important structural and functional distortions, creating a crisis that started in 1970s, worsened in 1980s, and led to a sharp decline in people's standard of living (Zamfir 2001).
In December 1989, the dictatorial regime of Ceausescu was overthrown. Since then, Romania moved from a communist regime to a democratic political system, from a state-planned to a market economy, and from a state-governed and controlled family life to independently functioning family systems. The transformation into a democratic setup and a market economy was not smooth. The breakdown of the economic and social infrastructure resulted in worker unemployment, underemployment, and job insecurity, all of which translated in economic hardships for many families and communities. Thus, between 1991 and 2000 an average of 70 percent of Romanians estimated their income as barely sufficient or insufficient to cover basic necessities (RIQL 2001). Household composition is an important indicator correlating with poverty. For example, households with five family members face a more than 50 percent chance of being poor (Tesliuc and Pop 2001), and each child that is born increases the poverty risk by almost 50 percent (RIQL 2001). Poverty rates vary by region as well: In 1998, the poverty rate in rural areas was 50 percent higher than in urban areas (RQIL 1998).