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Does the middle class hurt the poor? An empirical investigation into the middle-class bias in social spending and welfare state redistribution across 20 countries, 1985-2013.

Welfare states that are effective in reducing poverty have high levels of social spending. Yet, changes in social spending cannot explain changes in poverty outcomes. Inequalities increased almost everywhere and so did levels of social spending, but in many countries social spending became less effective in keeping poverty at bay. So, then, why did social spending became less pro-poor in some countries but not in others? The central hypothesis of this research project is that changes in poverty outcomes across OECD countries can be explained by changes in the middle-class bias in social spending. It is expected that countries in which a larger share of social spending accrued to the middle class, experienced a decrease in welfare state redistribution. Although the influence of the middle class on redistribution is centre stage in welfare state theory, this dimension is invariably ignored in recent attempts to explain poverty outcomes. Therefore, I will (1) empirically assess changes in the middle-class bias in social spending across countries and over time; (2) estimate to what extent this is related to diverging trends in welfare state redistribution and poverty rates; and (3) test three potential mechanisms through which the influence of the middle class on social spending is exerted, derived from the main theories on welfare state redistribution. The result are expected to further our understanding of the mechanisms that underlie welfare state redistribution.
Date:1 Oct 2017  →  30 Sep 2020
Disciplines:Applied sociology, Policy and administration, Social psychology, Social stratification, Social theory and sociological methods, Sociology of life course, family and health, Other sociology and anthropology