New paper in PLOS ONE debunks our conventional beliefs about the primary role of welfare states in Europe
Welfare states mainly redistribute resources between age groups (from those who work to those who do not). Their impact on leveling off socio-economic status inequalities is much smaller in comparison. Pieter Vanhuysse and co-authors remind us that poverty alleviation and inequality mitigation potential is explicitly or implicitly part of most government interventions and that social policies should not be the sole ones that shoulder the blame for imperfect result.
European welfare states primarily redistribute resources between age groups (from those who work to those who do not), whereas their impact on leveling off socio-economic status inequalities is much smaller in comparison. These empirical findings debunk some of our conventional beliefs about the primary role of welfare states. Pieter Vanhuysse and co-authors invite us in their new paper in PLOS ONE to reconsider the lenses through which we evaluate not only social policies but also non-social policies.
Since social policies are primarily lifecycle redistribution machines, they should not be singled out as the sole institution to shoulder the blame for imperfectly alleviating poverty and mitigating inequality. If these goals are deemed societally worthy, other forms of government intervention could also be drafted into that same societal effort and be judged accordingly. For instance, road-construction and other infrastructure projects strongly impact equality, too, as do safety regulations, air pollution standards, public investment in air traffic, monetary and exchange rate policy, or carbon taxes.
Vanhuysse P., Medgyesi M., Gal R.I. 2021. Welfare states as lifecycle redistribution machines: Decomposing the roles of age and socio-economic status shows that European tax-and-benefit systems primarily redistribute across age groups. PLOS ONE 16(8).
Read the full paper here.