Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Research Institute of Industrial Economics

No 1401: Fairness, Flexibility and the Far Right: Understanding the Relationship between Populism, Social Spending and Labor Markets

Andreas Bergh () and Anders Kärnä ()
Additional contact information
Andreas Bergh: Lund University, Postal: and Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Stockholm, Sweden
Anders Kärnä: Örebro University, Postal: and Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: The large increase in economic inequality and the dismantling of the welfare state in Western democracies has been connected to the rise of populist parties. If populist voting is explained by fear and labor market insecurity and if people care more about procedural fairness than inequality of economic outcomes, national income inequality should be less important than other factors in explaining vote shares of populist parties. Using election results from 33 European countries over the 1980-2018 period, two different classifications of populist parties and three different measures of government/welfare state size, we find no relationship between country-level economic inequality, as measured by the disposable income Gini, and either right-wing or left-wing populism. An alternative hypothesis that right-wing populism is dampened by labor market flexibility and social spending is developed and shown to have empirical support.

Keywords: Inequality; Populism; The welfare state; Social spending; Employment protection

JEL-codes: D31; D63; P16

26 pages, September 1, 2021

Full text files

wp1401.pdf PDF-file Full text

Download statistics

Questions (including download problems) about the papers in this series should be directed to Elisabeth Gustafsson ()
Report other problems with accessing this service to Sune Karlsson ().

This page generated on 2021-10-19 15:39:07.