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Ethnic Heterogeneity and Public Support for Welfare: Is the American Experience Replicated in Britain, Sweden and Denmark?

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The link between ethnic heterogeneity and public support for welfare policy is debated. The thesis of a negative relationship is supported by much American research. Historically the race issue has blocked a number of American welfare schemes; across the United States ethnically heterogeneous states have less generous benefits, and citizens having negative attitudes towards blacks often oppose welfare. The research question is: To what extent will increased ethnic heterogeneity in European countries establish the same mechanisms? Three theoretical positions are discussed: the position that the American experience is unique; the position that it is generalisable; and a middle position of it being contingent on institutional settings. The latter position predicts that the American experience can be avoided, especially in social democratic welfare regimes where the ethnicity issue has not been politicised. Empirically the article is based on survey data from the United Kingdom, Sweden and Denmark, in which a number of American items were directly replicated. Despite indications of American uniqueness and welfare‐regime effects, the findings support the position that the in‐group/out‐group mechanisms found in the United States are being replicated in Europe.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Political Science, Aalborg University, Denmark

Publication date: 01 December 2011

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