English title: Age, Class, and Attitudes Towards Government Responsibilities: In Search of the Mechanisms

Author(s): Stefan Svallfors - Joakim Kulin - Annette Schnabel -

Language: English

Type: Conference paper/poster

Year: 2010


Using data from the ESS2008 module on Welfare Attitudes, our basic research question is to what extent risk perceptions, beliefs (about claimant groups and about the sustainability of the welfare state), and values work as micro-level mechanisms that tie class/age categories with attitudes towards government responsibilities. Furthermore, we explore these class/age differences in a comparative perspective: to what extent do they differ between different national contexts? We ask whether the structural and institutional contexts in which actors are located affect the magnitudes of class/age differences. Are there factors at the country-level that systematically affect the relative size of class and age differences? We also ask if class and age work as cross-cutting cleavages, so that small class differences tend to coincide with large age differences, and vice versa. The results show that there is indeed astonishing variation across Europe in the extent to which class and age structure welfare attitudes. Some countries are characterised by considerable class and age variation, others by more modest or even negligible differences. But these differences-within-differences do not form any easily interpretable pattern. The findings that relative age/class differences are non-patterned across countries are basically confirmed by the attempts to find macro-variables that are systematically associated with the size of the attitude differences between categories. These exercises were on the whole negative, in that few if any of the macro-variables were clearly associated with the size of class differences, while none had any impact on the age differences. Furthermore, there is little support for the notion that age and class work as crosscutting cleavages, so that small class differences in attitudes are found where age differences are large and vice versa. On average across different dependent variables, age and class differences vary independently of each other. Nor did the search for micro-level mechanisms that link class/age location with welfare attitudes turn out particularly successful. To some extent, perceptions about individual risk and beliefs about the extent of social problems mediated the class-attitudes relation. But most of the original association between class and welfare attitudes persisted, showing that other factors than the ones tested here must be at play. Age differences were not affected at all by the suggested mechanisms.

Conference name: Conference of the Council for European Studies

Location: Montreal

Start date: Apr 15, 2010

Type: Paper

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