Busemeyer, Marius R. Goerres, Achim Weschle, Simon
Year of Publication:
MPIfG discussion paper 08/3
This paper is about the relative impact of retirement and social class on individual attitudes towards welfare state policies in advanced industrial democracies. Which factor is more important in explaining individuals' social policy preferences: socio-economic background or retirement? How can differences in patterns between countries be explained? These questions are explored using ordered logistic regression models on the 1996 ISSP Role of Government data set for fifteen countries. First, it is shown that retirement matters; there are consistent differences between policy areas that can be explained by life-cycle salience. Particularly in the case of preferences regarding education spending, being retired matters more than the socio-economic background. Second, some countries, such as the United States, show a higher salience of the age/retirement cleavage across all policy fields; age/retirement is a more important line of political conflict in these countries than in others. Third, country characteristics matter. Although the relative salience of retirement varies across policy areas, a large variance within each of the policy areas across countries is evident. Most interestingly, the more generous the state provisions are in a given policy area, the stronger the age/retirement cleavage is (with the exception of pension policies). Overall, the findings of this study are not in line with simple rational choice models. Instead, the explorative results call for more complex theoretical models, including institutional structures, in order to gain a better understanding of individuals' attitudes towards the welfare state in aging societies.