Targeting and political support for welfare spending

  • Karl Ove Moene
  • Michael Wallerstein


This paper investigates the political support for social assistance policies in a model in which incomes are stochastic (so that welfare policies have an insurance benefit) and unequal ex ante (so that welfare policies have a redistributive effect). With self-interested voting, narrow targeting may so reduce the probability of receiving benefits for the majority that the majority prefers to eliminate benefits altogether, even though the cost of narrowly targeted benefits is close to zero. In contrast, a majority of self-interested voters always supports positive welfare benefits when the policy is targeted sufficiently broadly. If voters are somewhat altruistic, the impact of targeting on political support for welfare spending diminishes but does not disappear.

Key words

welfare state voting targeting universal spending 

JEL classification

H1 D3 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karl Ove Moene
    • 1
  • Michael Wallerstein
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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