Title: Public Support for State Redistribution in Times of Increasing Inequalities Subtitle: A Cross-National Comparative Trend Analysis of Fifteen Countries

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 16:00
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Anja EDER, University of Graz, Austria
The distribution of incomes has become more unequal within many OECD-countries since the 1970s and 1980s and today reached “it’s highest since records began” (OECD 2015). Whereas in the 1980s the highest 10% of the population earned 7-times as much than the lowest 10%, it was nearly 10-times as much in the early 2000s. From this trend scholars conclude that inequality follows a u-curve, ending the historical phase of equalization.

To what extent do people in different countries and welfare states think that their governments are responsible to reduce these income differences? Is there any evidence that citizens throughout the 1990s and 2000s have legitimated the rising levels of inequality? In democratic societies public support plays an important role in political decisions and may directly and indirectly impact social structural changes. Since welfare states incorporate distributive norms and standards of social justice, countries were selected along the line of ideal-typical welfare-state regimes (WFS): Norway and Sweden as representatives of the social democratic WFS, West-Germany and Austria as conservative WFS, the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia as liberal WFS. In addition Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, East Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, and Slovenia were included as contrasting post-state-socialist countries.

Using data from the ISSP, distinct cross-country variation, largely inconsistent with the classical regime-typologies, and rather constant attitudes towards state redistribution get obvious. There is no clear evidence that people normatively accommodate to growing income gaps. Regarding the still highest preference for state redistribution in the wealthier and less wealthy post-socialist countries it seems that indeed „the identities and interests of social actors are (…) created in a process where the institutional frame work within which people act, and the historical traditions through which events and processes are interpreted, have a decisive impact“ (Svallfors 1997: 291).