WSF TWS: Welfare State Attitudes – The Social Legitimacy of Our Future Welfare State

The WSF Thematic Workshop on “Welfare State Attitudes – The Social Legitimacy of Our Future Welfare State” took place in Gothenburg, Sweden, 22-24 February 2017.

You can have a look at the full program here.

“Inspiring Environment, Useful Feedback, and Ample Opportunities for Future Cooperation” – The WSF Thematic Workshop on Welfare State Attitudes in Gothenburg

Summary by Maria Oskarson and Björn Rönnerstrand, Workshop Organizers (HEALTHDOX)

Maria Oskarson_edit TW
Maria Oskarson, Workshop Organizer, HEALTHDOX
Björn Rönnerstrand, Workshop Organizer, HEALTHDOX

Good research requires interactions and discussions with colleagues within the same field, and the workshop program within the Welfare State Futures Program is intended to offer exactly that. The NORFACE Welfare State Futures Thematic Workshop on “The Social Legitimacy of Our Future Welfare State” was held in Gothenburg, Sweden, February 22-24 2017, and was the second cross-project workshop arranged within the network. The workshop focus was on theories, methods and findings of recent studies on welfare relevant attitudes, opinions and preferences and gathered 46 participants from 10 of the projects within the Welfare State Futures Program.

The purpose of the workshop was double – on the one hand to support on-going research by providing an opportunity to present and discuss on-going work to colleagues in the welfare state community, and on the other hand to stimulate cross-project contacts and collaborations. I must say that I think the workshop fulfilled both purposes.

With plenary presentations of the 10 on-going projects together with 23 paper presentations in 12 sessions the interactions and discussions were both stimulating and constructive. We believe we all got new insights in theories as well as methods and research designs, as well as ideas of how to proceed with our own work. The workshop also offered “mentoring sessions” for the participating younger scholars where they had the opportunity to more informally discuss matters such as publication strategies and career planning with more senior participants.

All in all we think the work shop turned out as well as we could have hoped for, thanks to the positive and constructive participants from all the different projects. With such participants, it is a privilege to organize a workshop!. A summary of papers presented and opinions on the workshop can be found at the WSF website

Selection of Presented Papers

Henning Finseraas, GiWES | Institute for Social Research | henning.finseraas (at)

Labor Market Competition with Immigrants and Party Choice: Evidence From A Skill Cell Approach

GiWES Henning Finseraas
Henning Finseraas

The political consequences of economic globalization has lately been fiercely debated across Europe and the US, including the role of labor immigration. In this paper we study the party choices of voters facing labor market competition from immigration. To identify the effect of labor market competition we introduce the national skill cell approach, which is designed to isolate a direct partial effect of immigrant competition. By access to detailed, population-wide, administrative data, we get precise measures of Norwegian voters’ exposure to competition, and we relate this measure to voting behavior in five national elections. We find a polarizing effect of immigration among voters experiencing negative wage effects of immigration. The polarization points to the existence of a protectionist and a compensatory response, and we propose that pre-determined ideological convictions determine the response.

“The workshop was excellent. It was well organized and I received very useful feedback on the papers I was presenting/co-presenting. It was useful to get to know the other projects and the participants in these projects, and it was fun to meet new people and old friends. The workshop was certainly helpful with regard to networking and provided ample opportunities for future cooperation”

Troels Fage Hedegaard, MIFARE | Aalborg University | troelsfh (at)

Christian Albrekt Larsen, MIFARE | Aalborg University | albrekt (at)

Coming to Europe: American Exceptionalism and American Migrants’ Adaption to Comprehensive Welfare States
Troels Fage Hedegaard

That the US has not developed a comprehensive welfare state, compared to most other Western countries, has been given a number of different interpretations. One of the prominent theories is that Americans carry a special creed of individually and liberty that can be traced back to the very establishment of the American nation state. This kind of cultural “American exceptionalism” is believed to hinder welfare state development; in the past as well as in the future. The article challenges this cultural essentialist interpretation by describing the attitudes to welfare policies among first generation American migrants living in Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark. The attitudes of the first generation migrants are by means of matching techniques compared to the attitudes of Americans living in the US. The article finds, using propensity score matching, that the Americans exposed to the institutional context of North European welfares states are more supportive of governmental responsibility for sick, pensioners and unemployed as well as governmental responsibility for redistribution than are the American control group.

Laura Miehlbradt, HESTIA | German Youth Institute | miehlbradt (at)

The Influence of the Welfare Atate’s Orientation on Handling Child Abuse and Neglect Within the German Welfare State

HESTIA Laura Miehlbradt
Laura Miehlbradt

Children and their wellbeing are a special issue in the context of welfare states. As they are not of legal age their parents are in charge of raising them. Even though, it is the state’s obligation to ensure every child is growing up safely. In Germany in the past, there was a public discussion about serious child maltreatment cases for taking action at a later stage. The legal framework was criticized not balancing parent’s rights and children’s wellbeing to great effect.
Within our study, we aim to illustrate the practical implementation and possible problems in this context against the backdrop of the state’s right to interfere in the family’s privacy. Special attention is paid to the report itself, the investigation by the agencies, and help measures implemented. That way, the child welfare’s act of balancing the two moments of respecting family life as privacy and the need for help in case of child endangerment can be studied.

“I liked the way the workshop was structured. Getting an overview about all the projects at the first day was a nice way to ensure a basic knowledge for everyone. Also, I liked the atmosphere which was nice, productive and cooperative in general.”

Tatjana Rakar, WelfSOC | University of Ljubljana | tatjana.rakar (at)

Maša Filipovič Hrast, WelfSOC | University of Ljubljana | masa.filipovic (at)

Attitudes Towards Future Policies for the Elderly: A Comparative Analysis of Four Welfare States

WelfSOC Tatjana Rakar
Tatjana Rakar
WelfSOC Masa Hrast
Masa Filipovic Hrast

The paper explores attitudes of citizens of how European welfare states approach social protection and care services for the elderly in the context of population ageing. We are particularly interested in the ideas and values behind countries’ changing welfare mixes, i.e., the new ways in which responsibilities for elderly welfare are divided across different actors in society. The basis for the analysis are data gathered in an international comparative project (WELFSOC) adopting coordinated democratic forums as methodology. We use the ordinary citizen’s attitudes and expectations in relation to how they see the division of responsibility for elderly people’s welfare in the future – to shed light on factors likely to shape future elder care and old age pension policies. We analyse four counties – Norway, Slovenia, Germany and UK – belonging to four different welfare regimes.

“I have found the workshop highly interesting, and it allowed for meeting new people and exchange of information. It was very helpful for advancing my work.” (Maša Filipovič Hrast)

“The workshop was very interesting and very useful for my future work. It was great to meet new people and engage in very stimulating and fruitful discussions.” (Tatjana Rakar)

Jeanette AJ Renema, MIFARE | Radboud University | j.renema (a)

Immigrants’ Attitudes toward Welfare Spending and the Group-interest Effect: A Comparative Study of Immigrants in the Netherlands

MobileWelfare Jeanette Renema
Jeanette AJ Renema

This study drew both on the literature of welfare state attitudes and migrant integration aiming to gain a better understanding of immigrants’ welfare spending preferences in host countries. In our research, we examined different societal positions of immigrant groups based on the national shares of unemployment benefit participation rates and social assistance participation rates in the Netherlands. We probed whether this affected immigrants’ attitudes toward public spending on the unemployment benefit program and social assistance program. For the purpose, we gathered and employed our new survey dataset, Migrants’ Attitudes toward the Welfare State (MIFARE), for our analytical analyses. We distinguished ten immigrant groups (based on the country of origin) that differ strongly in their national shares of welfare recipients. The results show that the immigrant group’s relative recipiency shares do matter. Yet, this was only found with regard to the unemployment benefit participation rates. Both the amount of household income and individual benefit recipiency affect immigrants’ welfare spending more, indicating that rational calculations form an important feature as well. Furthermore, the results showed that immigrants with a higher obtained education level are in greater support for public spending. It is possible therefore, to hypothesize that immigrants’ educational achievements influence their sociotropic assessments of welfare support.

“This was my first WSF Thematic Workshop and I enjoyed hearing about all the innovative research of the other projects. The presentations were very relevant for my own research and it gave us the opportunity to present our work and exchange ideas with experts. In short, it was a great place to meet other researchers in one’s field in a very inspiring environment.” (Jeanette AJ Renema)

Ave Roots, HEALTHDOX | University of Tartu | ave.roots (at)

Support for the Financing of the Health Care System by the State – Can Only Rich Have Political Attitudes?

Ave Roots

Studying support for the public financing of the health care is important political issue.  It has been repeatedly shown that the economically deprived are more leftist (Heath, Evans, and Martin 1994), but some authors have cast the shadow of doubt, whether it works universally (Derks 2004).
We use ISSP 2011 data to analyse how political preferences are related with the views about the contribution role of state on health care. Using all data from all countries shows, as expected, that people, who voted for left wing parties are more willing than right wing voters to pay higher taxes for better health care. When we investigate these results in more detail, the country groups differ to a great extent and the expected relationship occurs only in some countries and income groups. In Northern and Western Europe in all income groups the relationship between left-right preference and health financing preference was as expected, still people with left wing preference and high income were more willing to pay higher taxes for better health care than their low income counterparts. In Southern Europe low income left party voters were a specific group that differed from all others, being less willing to pay for better health care than all other groups. In Eastern Europe, after controlling for socio-demographic variables, the interaction between left-right preference and health policy preference loosed its significance almost completely.

Tamara Popic, HEALTHDOX | University of Lisbon | tpopic (at)

Simone Schneider, HEALTHDOX | Trinity College Dublin | sschneid (at)

Maria Asensio, HEALTHDOX | University of Lisbon | maria.asensio (at)

Portugal’s Public Opinion in the Context of Austerity: The Curious Case of Healthcare

HEALTHDOX Tamara Popic 20032017
Tamara Popic

In our paper, we investigate to what extent the changes brought in the Portuguese healthcare by crisis and austerity have been reflected in public opinion. More specifically, we asked whether the public opinion trends can be explained with the dualization theory, which distinguishes between labor market ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’, those with stable and secure employment and those without it. Applying the dualization theory to the Portuguese case, we show how reforms introduced during the crisis have changed the structure of opportunities for healthcare access and coverage for these two labor market groups and expect that ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ will have different attitudes toward healthcare. The results of the empirical findings confirm this expectation, showing that ‘insiders’ during and after the crisis had significantly more negative attitudes than ‘outsiders’. The results also show that these labor market groups were not fully homogenous in their evaluations since, for example, those ‘insiders’ with the more stable employment status, and therefore with the more secure and extensive opportunities for healthcare access, were more negative than workers on part-time and temporary contracts and therefore, with less secure healthcare opportunities. Our findings contribute to the literature on feedback effect and stress that the crisis-induced welfare state reforms must be analyzed in a more fine-grained way that pays attention to different effects of these reforms across social groups.

Katharina Zimmermann, WelfSOC | Humboldt Universität zu Berlin | katharina.zimmermann (at)

Unravelling Deservingness: Which Criteria Do People Use to Judge the Relative Deservingness of Welfare Target Groups?

In times of austerity, the question of who deserves which kinds of social benefits and services under which conditions is high on the political agenda in many European countries. Previous research suggests that European citizens by and large have common and consistent attitudes toward the deservingness of welfare target groups, such as perceiving elderly people as most deserving, unemployed people as less deserving, and immigrants as least deserving. Yet, it is unclear which criteria people apply when making these judgments. In this article we shed light on the reasoning behind judgments about the relative deservingness of different target groups of social policy. We analyze how participants in four focus groups – from the middle class, the working class, young people, and elderly people – discuss and rank various vignettes representing welfare target groups. Our results confirm the existence of a relatively consistent rank order of public deservingness perceptions – with elderly people at the top, unemployed people in the middle, and immigrants at the bottom –, but we add further categories to this rank order (median-income families, low-income earners, and well-off earners). Our analysis of the reasoning behind deservingness judgments shows that varying combinations of criteria suggested in the literature (especially need, reciprocity, identity, and control) are applied depending on the target group, and we suggest that a further criterion – emphasizing future returns on invested resources – should be added (‘social investment’). Finally, by contrasting the focus groups we show that different social groups back up similar deservingness rankings by differing criteria, suggesting that below the surface of a ‘common deservingness culture’ linger class and other differences in perceiving welfare deservingness.

Workshop Opinions

Dimitri Gugushvili, WelfSOC | KU Leuven | ditogugushvili (at)

WelfSOC Dimitri Gugushvili
Dimitri Gugushvili

It was great to learn about the state-of-the-art in the welfare states future research field. I was particularly interested in learning  about several social experiments (carried out by the colleagues from Norway), the new approaches to health systems classification and the new method of democratic forums; Throughout the workshop I made many useful contacts with colleagues from Estonia, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Poland and Slovenia. I am planning to follow up with some comments on the cross-country analysis on willingness to pay higher taxes in exchange for better healthcare presented by colleagues from Estonia. While at present I am fully engaged in my project, I am now familiar with some of the colleagues whom I could potentially reach out to for research partnership on welfare attitudes.

 Sigrún Ólafsdóttir, Healthdox | Boston University | sigruno (at)

Sigrun Olafsdottir

I had the pleasure of attending the Welfare States Workshop in Gothenburg in February. I enjoyed being able to interact with other researchers interested in welfare states and learn more about their research projects. What was particularly useful were the short presentations about each project, as well as more in-depth presentations on empirical research related to each project. It is too common that scholars running large research projects in the same area are unaware of each other work, and therefore it was very beneficial to get to know other welfare state researchers and learn more about their research projects.

Wim van Oorschot, WelfSOC External Expert | University of Leuven | w.v.oorschot (at)

Wim van Orschot
Wim van Oorschot

Inspiring to meet colleagues from different disciplines and projects.

Federica Rossetti, WelfSOC Partner | University of Leuven | f.rossetti90 (at)

It was a great opportunity for me, as a new researcher, to take part in this workshop and see the projects of the groups. I think the workshop was well-organized, and it was very fruitful in terms of expanding the knowledge and having the chance to create cooperation between different projects and project members. The coffee breaks during the days represented an opportunity to discuss ideas and exchange information, thus networking was encouraged during these moments. I also appreciated that each of the paper presenter had the opportunity to receive detailed comments and discuss with persons from different groups.