Values and Social Policy in Comparative Perspective
Edited by Wim van Oorschot, Michael Opiekla and Birgit Pfau-Effinger
Chapter 12: European Scope-of-Government Beliefs: The Impact of Individual, Regional and National Characteristics
John Gelissen INTRODUCTION AND RESEARCH QUESTIONS Research on popular scope-of-government beliefs constitutes a major aspect of the study of the role of values and culture within welfare states. This ﬁeld of research seeks to describe and explain people’s values, beliefs and preferences regarding the types and degrees of state intervention in matters of citizens’ social and economic security. Earlier studies in this ﬁeld have paid considerable attention to individual- and country-level determinants of such beliefs. We will discuss their main ﬁndings later. However, research that additionally includes regional diﬀerences within nation states as potential explanations of welfare state beliefs is lacking thus far. The inclusion of regional characteristics can be important for several reasons. In the ﬁrst place, Stewart (2003) shows that there exist important regional disparities with respect to poverty and inequality, unemployment, education and health. Countries which spend much on social protection include regions which lag behind in their socio-economic development, and there are also relatively prosperous regions in countries which have relatively low social expenditures. Presumably, such structural regional disparities contribute to attitude and preference formation; that is, people hold certain beliefs about welfare state policies because of the immediate surrounding socio-economic conditions. Second, regions diﬀer considerably in terms of cultural characteristics. As Beugelsdijk and van Schaik (2003) point out, regional identity is a key element in the construction of regions as social and political spaces and systems of action. One measure of regional speciﬁcity is provided by the existence of diﬀerent values,...
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