Date of Completion
Dr. Lyle Scruggs
Dr. Matthew Singer
Dr. Cyrus Ernesto Zirakzadeh
Field of Study
Doctor of Philosophy
Recent unpopular reforms across Europe have invigorated a longstanding debate around what provokes welfare state change in advanced industrialized democracies. Is welfare state retrenchment a result of right-wing parties in power or is it simply a universal response to “problem pressures”? Might there be an interactive effect between these variables, in which right-wing parties use moments of pressure as opportunities to retrench? This study focuses on a set of the most theoretically intriguing of social welfare cutbacks: those demonstrably unpopular to the majority of the voting public and therefore most dangerous to politicians risky who voted out for unpopular policies. Using cross-national public opinion polls to identify a subset of demonstrably unpopular cutbacks (i.e. retrenchment to mandatory pensions for private-sector workers), this study conglomerates data on cutbacks to pension for 18 countries over 26 years, 1990 to 2015. The logit regression, major fiscal-economic downturn is identified as a major determinant of unpopular social benefits retrenchment, whereas the partisanship variable is either weakly significant or in an unexpected direction, depending on specification. A control, corporatism, is significant and positive. The study then explores the financial-economic downturn and retrenchment link, through case studies on France and Germany, identifying downturn as a critical moment or crisis that pushes politicians to engage in retrenchment. Thus, crisis is not so much an opportunity for right parties, waiting eagerly to retrench, but a restriction of alternative possibilities, that pushes them toward cutbacks to pensions.
LaMontagne, Bernadette, "Grasping the Third Rail: When and Why Does Unpopular Welfare Retrenchment Occur?" (2018). Doctoral Dissertations. 1954.
Available for download on Sunday, August 23, 2020