Variations in housing assistance across welfare state regimes: who benefits from targeting?

JoEllen Pederson, Florida State University
Jill Quadagno, Florida State University

Social scientists have long debated whether the best strategy for reducing poverty and ameliorating inequality is to target benefits to the needy or guarantee benefits on a universal basis as an earned right. Numerous comparative studies have focused on variations across nations in the quality of social insurance programs, especially public pensions, but have paid little attention to the distribution of targeted benefits. Nations currently use targeted benefits to provide basic income support but also food, child care, long-term care and medical care. One of the most basic human needs is shelter. Adequate housing can affect access to jobs, education, health care and safety and thus have effects that multiply advantage or disadvantage across the life course. Using the Luxembourg Income Study, this study examines how housing assistance is distributed in six countries, which represent Esping-Andersen’s three regime types. While housing policies are consistent with the principles underlying regime types, every country is more likely to award housing assistance to single women and mothers with children. These programs also target the elderly, which benefits women, both as recipients and as caregivers. Thus, targeted benefit should not necessarily be dismissed as inferior to social insurance programs. Rather they can perform important functions that enhance the autonomy of women and make it possible for single women to maintain an independent household.

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Presented in Session 69: Welfare policies in European countries

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