Political Science

Lauren Prather

Fighting Poverty at Home and Abroad
2013 Dissertation Fellowship

Why does public support for domestic welfare and foreign aid vary across developed countries? What is the relationship between these two types of redistribution? My research takes a broad view of redistribution as a bundle of policies that can be found in both domestic and international politics. I argue that two categories of mechanisms impact public support for redistribution: the perceived deservingness of the program recipients and attitudes about the role of government. These mechanisms, however, have different roles depending on the domestic or foreign nature of the program. I explore how this argument obtains across donor countries through an original data collection effort. I field two surveys to a large, nationally representative population of Americans and replicate these studies in at least one European country. My dissertation makes two main contributions. First, it advances the study of public opinion on redistribution by extending it to international politics. Second, the global financial crisis has led citizens to scrutinize redistributive programs at the exact time when many people could benefit from them. This makes understanding public support for these programs and why states finance them a critical endeavor.

Fighting Poverty at Home and Abroad: Explaining Attitudes Toward Redistribution
2012–13 Survey Lab Project

Why do individuals support income redistribution? This question has motivated research across many different social science literatures, but has largely been confined to the study of support for domestic welfare programs. In a world in which economic interactions are increasingly globalized however, it is surprising that relatively little attention has been paid to how individuals think about international inequality and foreign redistribution. My dissertation addresses this gap in the literature by examining whether national borders are barriers to support for income redistribution and how the determinants of support for redistribution vary across the domestic and international contexts. To answer these questions, I use experiments embedded in nationally representative surveys of Americans. I randomize the nationality of the recipients of redistribution and examine a range of causal mechanisms. The results of these studies demonstrate that Americans are significantly less supportive of a program that targets foreign recipients than one that targets domestic ones. Belief in the morality of government action is the primary mechanism behind the effect of nationality on support for redistribution, however attitudes about the need and deservingness of recipients as well as opportunity costs of the program also contribute to the effect.

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