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Universalism under siege? Exploring the association between targeting, child benefits and child poverty across 26 countries

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  • Wim Van Lancker
  • Natascha Van Mechelen

Abstract

The long-standing wisdom that universally designed benefits outperform targeted benefits in terms of poverty reduction has come under siege. Recent empirical studies tend to find that targeting is not necessarily associated anymore with lower levels of poverty reduction. In this study, we investigate for a broad set of European countries (1) the relationship between child benefits and child poverty reduction; (2) whether a universal or targeted approach is more effective in reducing child poverty; and (3) the causal mechanisms explaining the link between (1) and (2). In doing so, we take into account the general characteristics of the child benefit system, the size of the redistributive budget and the generosity of benefit levels. In contrast to previous studies, we construct an indicator of targeting that captures the design instead of the outcomes of child benefit systems. We find that targeting towards lower incomes is associated with higher levels of child poverty reduction, conditional on the direction of targeting and the characteristics of the benefit system.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp in its series Working Papers with number 1401.

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Date of creation: Jan 2014
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Handle: RePEc:hdl:wpaper:1401

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Web page: http://www.centreforsocialpolicy.eu
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Keywords: Child benefits; child poverty; paradox of redistribution; targeting; universalism; comparative social policy;

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  1. Atkinson, Tony & Cantillon, Bea & Marlier, Eric & Nolan, Brian, 2002. "Social Indicators: The EU and Social Inclusion," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, Oxford University Press, number 9780199253494, October.
  2. Marx, Ive & Salanauskaite, Lina & Verbist, Gerlinde, 2013. "The Paradox of Redistribution Revisited: And That It May Rest in Peace?," IZA Discussion Papers 7414, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Foster, James & Greer, Joel & Thorbecke, Erik, 1984. "A Class of Decomposable Poverty Measures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 52(3), pages 761-66, May.
  4. Herwig Immervoll & Mark Pearson, 2009. "A Good Time for Making Work Pay? Taking Stock of In-Work Benefits and Related Measures across the OECD," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 81, OECD Publishing.
  5. Koen Decancq & Tim Goedemé & Karel Van den Bosch & Josefine Vanhille, 2013. "The Evolution of Poverty in the European Union: Concepts, Measurement and Data," ImPRovE Working Papers, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp 13/01, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
  6. Bruce Bradbury & Markus Jantti, 1999. "Child Poverty across Industrialized Nations," Innocenti Occasional Papers, Economic Policy Series, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre iopeps99/70, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre.
  7. David Coady & Margaret Grosh & John Hoddinott, 2004. "Targeting of Transfers in Developing Countries : Review of Lessons and Experience," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 14902, October.
  8. Natascha Van Mechelen & Sarah Marchal & Tim Goedemé & Ive Marx & Bea Cantillon, 2011. "The CSB-Minimum Income Protection Indicators dataset (CSB-MIPI)," Working Papers, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp 1105, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
  9. Kenworthy, Lane, 2011. "Progress for the Poor," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, Oxford University Press, number 9780199591527, October.
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