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A long goodbye to the paradox of redistribution? An inquiry into the role of policy design in poverty reduction across and within developed welfare states (2014-2017)

The question of how social policy should be designed in order to have the biggest impact on poverty, is often answered with the truism that ‘policies designed for the poor, are poor policies’. Indeed, it was generally found that universally designed social policies are better able to reduce poverty than policies targeted to the poor; a phenomenon termed the ‘paradox of redistribution’. Behind this paradox lies the observation that universal welfare states tend to be bigger welfare states; they spend more on social policy. In contrast, recent empirical studies find that targeting tends to be associated with higher instead of lower levels of poverty reduction, in particular when accompanied by high levels of social spending. The current state of the literature does not allow to explain the changed relationship between targeting and poverty reduction. Therefore, the main aim of this research proposal is to unravel the link between poverty reduction and targeting across and within developed economies. I will empirically address two hypotheses that might shed light on the mechanisms of how social policy impacts on poverty, and seek to understand the role played by the design of social policy. I will address several shortcomings of previous research and test the generalizability of the results using quantitative as well as a qualitative research methods.

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