Why Doesn't The US Have a European-Style Welfare State?

67 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2001  

Alberto F. Alesina

Harvard University - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Edward L. Glaeser

Harvard University - John F. Kennedy School of Government, Department of Economics; Brookings Institution; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Bruce Sacerdote

Dartmouth College - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: October 2001

Abstract

European countries are much more generous to the poor relative to the US level of generosity. Economic models suggest that redistribution is a function of the variance and skewness of the pre-tax income distribution, the volatility of income (perhaps because of trade shocks), the social costs of taxation and the expected income mobility of the median voter. None of these factors appear to explain the differences between the US and Europe. Instead, the differences appear to be the result of racial heterogeneity in the US and American political institutions. Racial animosity in the US makes redistribution to the poor, who are disproportionately black, unappealing to many voters. American political institutions limited the growth of a socialist party, and more generally limited the political power of the poor.

Suggested Citation

Alesina, Alberto F. and Glaeser, Edward L. and Sacerdote, Bruce, Why Doesn't The US Have a European-Style Welfare State? (October 2001). Harvard Inst. of Econ. Research Disc. Paper No. 1933. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=290047 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.290047

Alberto F. Alesina

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Edward L. Glaeser (Contact Author)

Harvard University - John F. Kennedy School of Government, Department of Economics ( email )

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Brookings Institution

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Bruce Sacerdote

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Dartmouth College - Department of Economics ( email )

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