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Title: Valuing the Welfare State: A cross-national analysis of attitudes about income inequality and redistribution in 91 countries with case analyses of Brazil, China, France, and the United States
Authors: Steele, Liza G.
Advisors: Lynch, Scott M.
Telles, Edward E.
Contributors: Sociology Department
Keywords: Comparative sociology
Global/Transnational Sociology
Public opinion
Social policy
Stratification beliefs
Welfare states
Subjects: Sociology
Public policy
International relations
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Societies vary greatly in their equality and redistribution preferences. In this dissertation, I ask how and why this variation occurs with an analysis of differences in attitudes about income equality and social welfare benefits ("stratification beliefs") by examining the social, political, and economic determinants of these attitudes at both the country and individual level. Most studies of public opinion about redistribution have focused either exclusively on the United States, or on comparisons among a small number of developed countries. For the present study, I have compiled a unique data set that includes more than 370,000 individuals from 91 countries, 68 of which are developing. I combine individual-level data from the International Social Survey Program and the World Values Survey with country-level data from more than a dozen sources. In the dissertation, I expand on existing research on stratification beliefs to encompass the developing world and build theories appropriate for analyzing a much more socioeconomically diverse group of countries. In addition, I develop a new measurement that allows for the contextualization of attitudinal measures and thus may reduce the problems that arise in attempts to disentangle the relationship between public policy and public opinion. Scholars have contended that it is difficult, if not impossible, to discern whether attitudes have influenced, or been influenced by, social welfare policies that have existed for decades in some cases. I examine how economic inequality and equality of opportunity are related to support for redistribution. Then, I explore how ethnic diversity affects attitudes about social welfare policies. Finally, to provide a more in-depth analysis of the theories and findings from the previous two chapters, I focus on four countries with widely distinct socioeconomic systems--Brazil, China, France, and the United States--at multiple time-points spanning two decades. Selected findings from the dissertation include the salience of equality of opportunity, rather than existing levels of income equality, in predicting support for redistributive social policies, and the fact that contrary to widely cited theories, support for social welfare is actually higher in countries that are more diverse ethnically, which contradicts the claim that diversity is detrimental to social cohesion.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Sociology

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