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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Wim Van Lancker & Natascha Van Mechelen, 2014. "Universalism under siege? Exploring the association between targeting, child benefits and child poverty across 26 countries," Working Papers 1401, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
  • Handle: RePEc:hdl:wpaper:1401
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    File URL: http://www.centrumvoorsociaalbeleid.be/sites/default/files/CSB%20Working%20Paper%2014%2001_Januari%202014.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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, January.
    2. Foster, James & Greer, Joel & Thorbecke, Erik, 1984. "A Class of Decomposable Poverty Measures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(3), pages 761-766, May.
    3. Bruce Bradbury & Markus Jantti, 1999. "Child Poverty across Industrialized Nations," Papers iopeps99/70, Innocenti Occasional Papers, Economic Policy Series.
    4. Atkinson, Tony & Cantillon, Bea & Marlier, Eric & Nolan, Brian, 2002. "Social Indicators: The EU and Social Inclusion," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199253494.
    5. 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).
    6. Immervoll, Herwig & Pearson, Mark, 2009. "A Good Time for Making Work Pay? Taking Stock of In-Work Benefits and Related Measures across the OECD," IZA Policy Papers 3, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. 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 13/01, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
    8. Kenworthy, Lane, 2013. "Progress for the Poor," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199676927.
    9. Natascha Van Mechelen & Sarah Marchal & Tim Goedemé & Ive Marx & Bea Cantillon, 2011. "The CSB-Minimum Income Protection Indicators dataset (CSB-MIPI)," Working Papers 1105, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Jonas Wood & Karel Neels & Tine Kil, 2014. "The educational gradient of childlessness and cohort parity progression in 14 low fertility countries," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 31(46), pages 1365-1416, December.
    2. Elena Bárcena-Martín & Maria del Carmern & Salvador Perez-Moreno, 2015. "Assessing the impact of social transfer income packages on child poverty. A European cross-national perspective," ThE Papers 15/02, Department of Economic Theory and Economic History of the University of Granada..
    3. repec:agr:journl:v:xxiv:y:2017:i:2(611):p:187-196 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Marina Kolosnitsyna & Anna Philippova, 2017. "Family Benefits and Poverty: The Case of Russia," HSE Working papers WP BRP 03/PSP/2017, National Research University Higher School of Economics.
    5. Nicholas-James Clavet & Luca Tiberti & Marko Vladisavljevic & Jelena Zarkovic Rakic & Aleksandra Anic & Gorana Krstic & Sasa Randelovic, 2017. "Reduction of child poverty in Serbia: Improved cash-transfers or higher work incentives for parents?," Working Papers PMMA 2017-04, PEP-PMMA.
    6. Gerlinde Verbist & Wim Van Lancker, 2016. "Horizontal and Vertical Equity Objectives of Child Benefit Systems: An Empirical Assessment for European Countries," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 128(3), pages 1299-1318, September.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Child benefits; child poverty; paradox of redistribution; targeting; universalism; comparative social policy;

    JEL classification:

    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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