Bettina Schuck, Jennifer Shore
Does intergenerational mobility have political consequences? The impact of mobility experiences and expectations on normative attitudes toward the welfare state

11th ECPR General Conference, University of Oslo, September 06th to September 09th, 2017

Attitudes toward the welfare state have many antecedents, such as the crucial role one’s economic position and social origins play in shaping political opinions and preferences. The experiences people have throughout their lifetimes, but particularly in their younger years, indeed imprint on their political opinions. Today we face a situation in which upward social mobility (i.e., achieving a higher socio-economic status than one’s parents) is no longer a given for many young people. But how does social mobility (upward/downward) impact young people’s welfare attitudes? To answer this question, we analyze unique survey data on young Europeans’ normative attitudes toward welfare recipients. The study contributes to the theoretical and empirical literatures on social mobility and welfare attitudes by focusing on two subjective measures of intergenerational mobility (past financial mobility and mobility expectations) and deriving competing sets of hypotheses based on self-interest motives and the identification with one’s social origin. The results of logistic regression analyses suggest that the relationship between the past experience and future expectation of upward/downward mobility and young Europeans’ normative welfare attitudes are largely driven by material self-interest and not identification with one’s origin group. In line with the self-interest perspective, upward mobility is associated with less, and downward mobility with more welfare state support.