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Insecure Alliances: Risk, Inequality, and Support for the Welfare State


Popular support for the welfare state varies greatly across nations and policy domains. We argue that these variations—vital to understanding the politics of the welfare state—reflect in part the degree to which economic disadvantage (low income) and economic insecurity (high risk) are correlated. When the disadvantaged and insecure are mostly one and the same, the base of popular support for the welfare state is narrow. When the disadvantaged and insecure represent two distinct groups, popular support is broader and opinion less polarized. We test these predictions both across nations within a single policy area (unemployment insurance) and across policy domains within a single polity (the United States, using a new survey). Results are consistent with our predictions and are robust to myriad controls and specifications. When disadvantage and insecurity are more correlated, the welfare state is more contested.

Corresponding author
Philipp Rehm is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Ohio State University and Max Weber Fellow, European University Institute; 154 N. Oval Mall, 2140 Derby Hall, Columbus, OH 43210 (
Jacob S. Hacker is Stanley Resor Professor of Political Science and Director, Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University, 77 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06511 (
Mark Schlesinger is Professor of Health Policy, Yale University School of Public Health, Room 304 LEPH, 60 College St, New Haven, CT 06520 (
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