What determines support for the welfare state?

People are more likely to support the principles of the welfare state, such as  income equalisation and government interventions, if they feel that key events affecting their lifecourse are outside their control. That's one of the main findings of a working paper from a European Commission-funded study of what determines support for the welfare state in European and other developed countries.

Key findings

  • People who believe life events are largely outside their control are more likely to support state intervention in order to equalise life chances. Conversely, people who are confident in their ability to influence the world around them see their personal choices as the main cause of individual success or failure.
  • Support for the welfare state is also higher on average among those who are retired or unemployed, lower educated, in poor health, on low incomes, and female.
  • A higher quality of public administration and low confidence in major private companies amplifies preferences for redistribution and intervention.
  • Social trust is generally associated with higher support for redistribution and government intervention only if the perceived quality of administration is high, and confidence in companies low.
  • People who identify themselves as religious are generally less favourable toward income equalisation.

Source: Hans Pitlik and Ludek Kouba, The Interrelation of Informal Institutions and Governance Quality in Shaping Welfare State Attitudes, Working Paper 38, WWWforEurope Project (European Commission)

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