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Is the welfare state catching a cold? Materialism and support for welfare among 18-year old Belgians.

Yves Dejaeghere
Universiteit Antwerpen
Yves Dejaeghere
Universiteit Antwerpen
Open Panel

Abstract

In his seminal lecture on citizenship in 1946, TH Marshall argued that with the advent of social security measures in the twentieth century the full scope of citizenship was finally attained (Marshall, 1964). The formal equality provided in political and civil rights would now have a fundament in social equality which does not supplant, but levels out some of the inequality of a capitalist economic system. This is necessary for citizenship to be an equal status for all members of a political community (Marshall, 1964). But in the last decade the welfare state has come under increasing stress from policy reforms. Even in Western European countries with long traditions in social provisions like Germany we see decreases in social spending and labor market reform (Roche, 2002; Andres et al., 2007). It is therefore interesting to note that in the contemporary debate about declining citizenship values among young citizens a massive amount of attention is given to their perceived lack of political and civic participation, but that the third (social) pillar of citizenship is often disregarded (Dalton, 2005; Zukin et al., 2006; Putnam, 2000; O''Toole et al., 2003; Torney-Purta, 2002). This gap is especially regrettable since several studies seem to indicate that there is a growing trend towards materialism among young west-European citizens away from the postmaterialist values described by Inglehart (Hellevik, 2002; Kaina et al., 2006; Amnå et al., 2007; Inglehart et al., 2005). There is hitherto almost no research that looks at the development of attitudes towards welfare or welfare recipients in the pre-adult phase of life. This is rather remarkable given that many authors stress the importance of the period of late adolescents for the formation of social and political attitudes (Niemi & Hepburn, 1995; Youniss, 1980). Using an extensive panel dataset among adolescents in Belgium, in this paper I will look at the development of these attitudes between 16 and 18 years of age. Using a battery of items from adult research on attitudes towards welfare recipients (van Oorschot, 2002) I will try to explore which background variables influence these attitudes towards 18 years of age. One of the theoretical questions I will try to elucidate is whether the contact hypothesis that has extensively been used in prejudice research (Allport, 1958; Pettigrew, 2008), can also be validated for attitudes towards welfare recipients? Do the characteristics of the school environment of the respondents at 16 year (e.g. social heterogeneity) influence his/her attitudes towards welfare recipients next to the standard background variables? Because the 4500 adolescents in the study have been sampled in schools, we will use multilevel regression analysis to answer this question. Data The sample of young people that will be used in this paper is part of a panel study on the political socialization of young people in Belgium. The first wave of this study was carried out in 2006 when these young people were 16 year old and counted 6300 respondents (see: Hooghe et al., 2006). In the first months of 2008 the second wave of the study was carried out among the same students, at 18-years of age, using a closed question survey questionnaire. In the first part of 2011 the respondents will again be contacted for the survey, now at age 21, if this data is coded by the summer, it will equally used in this paper. Because the research is performed in over 90 schools and we have the postal code for the participants multilevel modeling is possible including school and residence (by linking postal code to census data) characteristics of the respondents.