Elias Naumann, Marvin Marcus Brinkmann, Katja Möhring
The ethnic penalty in welfare deservingness: A factorial survey experiment on welfare chauvinism in pension attitudes in Germany

Journal of European Social Policy, 2024: 34, Heft 2, S. 190-202
ISSN: 0958-9287 (print), 1461-7269 (online)

This study investigates whether pensioners with a foreign ethnic background are perceived as less deserving to receive a pension than are native pensioners. It focuses on Germany as an example with a strongly achievement-oriented social insurance system which closely links benefits to previous contributions. Hence, the system prevents a citizen from receiving benefits without having contributed. Our study thus adds to existing research by examining a less likely case to find welfare chauvinistic attitudes. To test our expectations, we rely on a factorial survey design and a probability sample of the German population in 2019. Survey respondents decide on the amount of pension benefits that a hypothetical pensioner should receive. Characteristics of the hypothetical pensioner – ethnic background, gender, last income, contribution years, the number of children and other dependents – are randomly varied. Our study finds support for welfare chauvinist attitudes in an achievement-oriented social insurance system. Even for the same achievement, that is, same income, contribution years and number of children, natives grant lower pensions to pensioners with a foreign ethnic background than to natives. Also, even if migrants show the most favourable behaviour (that is, having contributed to the pension system for many years and with a high income), the ethnic penalty in pensions remains significant.