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Biting the hand that feeds: reconsidering the partisan determinants of welfare spending in times of austerity

Bojar, Abel (2018) Biting the hand that feeds: reconsidering the partisan determinants of welfare spending in times of austerity. Government and Opposition, 53 (4). pp. 621-652. ISSN 0017-257X

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Identification Number: 10.1017/gov.2017.3

Abstract

The New Politics of the welfare state suggests that periods of welfare retrenchment present policymakers with a qualitatively different set of challenges and electoral incentives compared to periods of welfare expansion. An unresolved puzzle for this literature is the relative electoral success of retrenching governments in recent decades, as evidenced by various studies on fiscal consolidations. This article points to the importance of partisan biases as the main explanatory factor. I argue that partisan biases in the electorate create incentives for incumbent governments to depart from their representative function and push the burden of retrenchment on the very constituencies to which they owe their electoral mandate ('Nixon-goes-to-China'). After offering a simple model on the logic of partisan biases, the article proceeds by testing the unexpected partisan hypotheses that the model generates. My findings from a cross-section time-series analysis in a set of 23 OECD countries provide corroborative evidence on this Nixon-goes-to-China logic of welfare retrenchment: Governments systematically inflict pain on their core constituencies. These effects are especially pronounced in periods of severe budgetary pressure.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2017 The Author
Divisions: European Institute
Date Deposited: 12 Apr 2019 14:30
Last Modified: 20 Apr 2019 01:53
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/100461

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