English title: Children in the Family and Welfare State Attitudes: Altruism or Self-Interest?

Author(s): Mare Ainsaar -

Language: English

Type: Book chapter

Year: 2012


The main interest of this chapter was altruism and selfishness in attitudes. We were interested in whether people will support the responsibility of government generally, or only in those domains related to their own life cycle. The attitudes of people with and without children were compared in different life domains. Analyses of data seem to give more support to the idea of the selfish nature of people. People with children tended to support more government responsibility for domains that are more relevant to families with children and gave lower scores towards actions in favor of other welfare recipients. On the other hand, those without children evaluated the need for government actions more highly in domains not related to children, than in domains related to children. Although family policy is often analysed in the context of monetary benefits, no differences were revealed in the attitudes of respondents with and without children with regard to income distribution policies. This might be partially related to the wide range of target groups for income redistribution policies. This interpretation is also supported by the fact that income distribution attitudes were stronger if the general poverty level, compared to child poverty, was higher, although a high general poverty level itself diminished the support for income support policies as a task of government. This controversial result can be related to previous knowledge that solidarity is influenced simultaneously by the frequency of contacts and the perception of justified or deserved support. In high poverty areas where all people are poor, the justification for dealing particularly with this policy might be lower, but at the same time income inequalities between different groups might raise support for inequality reduction policies. The other consistent result was the dependency of attitudes on individual vulnerability and identity related indicators, such as income, education, gender, perception of a just society, left-right positioning, the perception of the benefits compared with the costs of a welfare system and individual value systems. The levels of security needs and benevolence were also statistically important factors in all models, after controlling for gender, income and ideological preferences. Differences in attitudes resulting from gender might indicate persistent differences in gender equity. The difference was more notable in attitudes about childrelated policies and other vulnerable support schemes than in the case of income policy. Lappegard (2008) believes that gender differences in respect of family are dependent on the general gender equality situation, i.e. the more equal the genders are in societies, the more equal should be their attitudes. The present study revealed continuous gender differences even after controlling for many vulnerability indicators. Attitudes-based cluster analyses of countries did not reveal any classical pattern of welfare state types, although there are many references to path dependency in literature. It is not surprising in the light of previous studies into attitudes (see Gelissen, 2000), and indicates that the relationships between the welfare system and attitudes are not linear or simple. At the same time, the results for people with children were often closer to the results for people without children in the same country than to those for people children in neighboring countries, which refers to the influence of country culture. Social norms and general ideological attitudes can be factors that shape the common standpoints.

From page no: 88

To page no: 106

Anthology: Future of the welfare state. Social Policy Attitudes and Social Capitlal in Europe

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