Equity, equality, or need? A study of popular preferences for welfare redistribution principles across 24 European countries

T. Reeskens, W.J.H. van Oorschot

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33 Citations (Scopus)


Although European welfare states receive high levels of public support, insights into what kind of welfare state individuals prefer - i.e., one based on the redistributive principle of equity, of equality or of need - is scarce and fragmented. Using the 2008 wave of the European Social Survey, we find that most European populations share a preference for applying the equality principle to unemployment benefits, while they are divided over applying equity and equality for pension schemes. Individual determinants of preferences confirm that the haves' prefer equity over equality, while the have-nots' prefer the need principle more. At the country level, cross-national variation in redistribution preferences is low for unemployment benefits and cannot be explained by relevant context factors; preferences for pension redistribution depends upon its institutional design and social expenditure: welfare generosity curbs the preference for equity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1174-1195
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • European Social Survey
  • institutions
  • multilevel analysis
  • Rawls
  • redistributive justice principles
  • welfare state legitimacy

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