Deservingness in the eye of the beholder: A vignette study on the moderating role of cultural profiles in supporting activation policies

Erwin Gielens*, Femke Roosma, Peter Achterberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


People support welfare policy if its beneficiaries are perceived as deserving of support. This study found that individuals' cultural worldviews play a role in assessing the deservingness of welfare recipients. We investigated whether four different cultural profiles find some beneficiaries to be more deserving than others and how this relates to support for social rights (welfare benefit, retraining, job coach) and obligations (mandatory volunteering). A Dutch vignette experiment showed that reasons for supporting social rights differ between people with different cultural profiles: equality advocates grant support if beneficiaries are needy, while the centre and trusting groups do so when beneficiaries reciprocate. We found that irrespective of deservingness, people with equality-advocating and trusting profiles tend to be more supportive of social rights, whereas socially discontented citizens tend to emphasise the importance of obligations. In general, obliging beneficiaries to do volunteer work was deemed appropriate by almost all respondents in the study, whereas their cultural values determined the ways in which they considered social rights to have been earned.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)442-453
JournalInternational Journal of Social Welfare
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • activation policy
  • cultural profiles
  • deservingness
  • policy support
  • social welfare policy
  • welfare reform
  • vignette experiment

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