Cross-National Support for the Welfare State Under Wealth Inequality

Amalie Sofie Jensen, Andreas Wiedemann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Wealth is often more unequally distributed than income, and there are considerable differences across countries. In this paper, we argue that wealth inequality helps explain cross-national variation in support for (and the size of) the welfare state because assets serve as private insurance. When wealth, particularly liquid assets, is unequally distributed across the income spectrum and high-income groups hold most assets, strong reinforcing preferences in favor of or against social policies result in antagonistic welfare politics and less government spending. When assets are more equitably distributed across the income spectrum, cross-cutting preferences emerge as more people support either insurance or redistribution. Welfare politics is consensual and facilitates a broader welfare coalition and more government spending. We analyze original cross-national survey data from nine OECD countries and provide evidence in support of our argument. Our findings suggest that wealth inequality reshapes the role of income in structuring welfare politics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1959-1995
Number of pages37
JournalComparative Political Studies
Issue number13
StatePublished - Nov 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


  • European politics
  • political economy
  • social welfare programs
  • wealth inequality


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