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The Welfare State and Equality? Stratification Realities and Aspirations in Three Welfare Regimes


Sachweh,  Patrick
Projekte von Gastwissenschaftlern und Postdoc-Stipendiaten, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main;

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Sachweh, P., & Olafsdottir, S. (2012). The Welfare State and Equality? Stratification Realities and Aspirations in Three Welfare Regimes. European Sociological Review, 28(2), 149-168. doi:10.1093/esr/jcq055.

Welfare regimes differ in their impact on social inequality in important ways. While previous research has explored the shape of stratification across nations and citizens’ normative attitudes towards inequality, scant attention has been given to citizens’ perceptions of actual stratification across welfare regimes. Using the 1999 International Social Survey Programme, we compare perceptions of inequality in Germany, Sweden, and the United States. More specifically, we ask how the stratification reality in each country is assessed by its citizens, whether it meets their stratification aspirations, and whether these perceptions differ systematically both across and within welfare regimes. Our results show that perceptions vary in a clear and meaningful way across countries as well as between different social groups within a given welfare regime. For instance, Americans are more likely to view society as unequal, but only slightly more likely to prefer that extent of inequality. Conversely, the Swedish clearly view their society as more equal than citizens in the United States and Germany, yet not nearly as equal as they would like it to be. Our multivariate results reveal important similarities and differences as well, such as socio-economic cleavages in the United States, and cleavages between labour market insiders and outsiders in Germany.