Northwestern Events Calendar


American Politics Workshop Presents Spencer Piston

When: Friday, March 4, 2016
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM Central

Where: Scott Hall, 212, 601 University Place, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: John Mocek   847.491.5364

Group: Department of Political Science

Category: Academic


“Why Americans Love the Welfare State”


While many pundits and political analysts claim that government measures to redistribute wealth downward are unpopular with the American public, this claim is inconsistent with the data. Decades of public opinion surveys have consistently shown that majorities of Americans support welfare state programs – not just “inclusive” programs from which middle-class Americans directly benefit such as Social Security, but also downwardly redistributive, “means tested” programs for which one has to demonstrate poverty to be eligible, such as Supplemental Security Income, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Head Start. Majorities of Americans also support increased taxes on the rich, and have done so even prior to The Great Recession and Occupy Wall Street. Support for increased taxes on the rich might be explained by economic self-interest – but majority support for means-tested programs that only benefit the poor cannot. Furthermore, support for downward redistribution is routinely found across partisan, ideological, and socioeconomic groups. This book project is designed to answer the following question: Why do so many Americans love downwardly redistributive social welfare programs?

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