The Social Legitimacy of Targeted Welfare
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The Social Legitimacy of Targeted Welfare

Attitudes to Welfare Deservingness

Edited by Wim van Oorschot, Femke Roosma, Bart Meuleman and Tim Reeskens

This book addresses new perspectives on the perceived popular deservingness of target groups of social services and benefits, offering new insights and analysis to this quickly developing field of welfare attitudes research. It provides an up-to-date state of the art in terms of concepts, theories, research methods and data. The book offers a multi-disciplinary view on deservingness attitudes, with contributions from sociology, political science, media studies and social psychology. It links up with central welfare state debates about the allocation of collective resources between groups with particular needs, and wider categories of need.
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Chapter 5: Negative Attitudes towards Welfare Claimants: The Importance of Unconscious Bias

Robert de Vries


As discussed elsewhere in this volume, research in a wide variety of countries shows that unemployed people are generally considered less deserving of welfare support than other social groups, such as older people or people with disabilities (for example van Oorschot, 2006; Hills, 2002; Larsen, 2002; Coughlin, 1980). However, not everyone feels the same way about the unemployed. Opinions about how much help this group deserves vary widely: between countries, between individuals and over time. There are many potential reasons for these differences of opinion. For example, different welfare systems might encourage people to view welfare recipients differently (Larsen, 2006). However, in this chapter I focus on the role of implicit attitudes: the unconscious feelings and beliefs people hold about specific social groups.

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