Cross-National Support for the Welfare State Under Wealth Inequality

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Wealth is often more unequally distributed than income, and there are considerable differences across countries. In this paper, we argue that wealth inequality helps explain cross-national variation in support for (and the size of) the welfare state because assets serve as private insurance. When wealth, particularly liquid assets, is unequally distributed across the income spectrum and high-income groups hold most assets, strong reinforcing preferences in favor of or against social policies result in antagonistic welfare politics and less government spending. When assets are more equitably distributed across the income spectrum, cross-cutting preferences emerge as more people support either insurance or redistribution. Welfare politics is consensual and facilitates a broader welfare coalition and more government spending. We analyze original cross-national survey data from nine OECD countries and provide evidence in support of our argument. Our findings suggest that wealth inequality reshapes the role of income in structuring welfare politics.

TidsskriftComparative Political Studies
Udgave nummer13
Sider (fra-til)1959-1995
StatusUdgivet - 2023

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: We are grateful to ERC project no. 313673 (HHPOLITICS) for funding and to Ida Maria Hartmann for excellent research assistance.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.

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