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National Identity and Support for the Welfare State


Author Info

  • Johnston, Richard

    (University of British Columbia)

  • Banting, Keith

    (Queen's University)

  • Kymlicka, Will

    (Queen's University)

  • Soroka, Stuart

    (McGill University)

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    This paper examines the role of national identity in sustaining public support for the welfare state. Liberal nationalist theorists argue that social justice will always be easier to achieve in states with strong national identities which, they contend, can both mitigate opposition to redistribution among high-income earners and reduce any corroding effects of ethnic diversity resulting from immigration. We test these propositions with Canadian data from the Equality, Security and Community survey. We conclude that national identity does increase support for the welfare state among affluent majority Canadians, and that it helps to protect the welfare state from toxic effects of cultural suspicion. However, we also find that identity plays a narrower role than existing theories of liberal nationalism suggest, and that the mechanisms through which it works are different. This leads us to suggest an alternative theory of the relationship between national identity and the welfare state, one that suggests that the relationship is highly contingent, reflecting distinctive features of the history and national narratives of each country. National identity may not have any general tendency to strengthen support for redistribution, but it may do so for those aspects of the welfare state seen as having played a particularly important role in building the nation, or in enabling it to overcome particular challenges or crises.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Stockholm University Linnaeus Center for Integration Studies - SULCIS in its series SULCIS Working Papers with number 2010:11.

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    Length: 46 pages
    Date of creation: 25 Aug 2010
    Date of revision:
    Publication status: Published in Canadian Journal of Political Science, 2010, pages 349-377.
    Handle: RePEc:hhs:sulcis:2010_011

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    Postal: Stockholm University Linnaeus Center for Integration Studies - SULCIS, Stockholm University, S-10691 Stockholm, Sweden
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    Related research

    Keywords: ethnic diversity; national identity; redistribution;

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    1. Baqir, Reza & Easterly, William & Alesina, Alberto, 1999. "Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions," Scholarly Articles 4551797, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    2. Erzo F.P. Luttmer, 1999. "Group Loyalty and the Taste for Redistribution," JCPR Working Papers 61, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    3. Mayda, Anna Maria, 2004. "Who Is Against Immigration? A Cross-Country Investigation of Individual Attitudes toward Immigrants," IZA Discussion Papers 1115, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Fearon, James D, 2003. " Ethnic and Cultural Diversity by Country," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 195-222, June.
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    Cited by:
    1. Shanto Iyengar, 2013. "Racial Cues and Attitudes toward Redistribution: A Comparative Experimental Approach," EUI-RSCAS Working Papers 59, European University Institute (EUI), Robert Schuman Centre of Advanced Studies (RSCAS).
    2. Salnikova, Daria, 2014. "Modeling the relationship between subjective economic well-being of citizens and their support for the welfare state institutions in the EU member countries," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 33(1), pages 71-89.


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