Kenneth Nelson: Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University, Postal: SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Abstract: Minimum income protection and social assistance is the last-resort safety net of the welfare state, targeted to the most vulnerable groups in society. Poverty alleviation is thus one chief objective of such benefits. Whether this objective is fulfilled is continuously discussed and debated. This paper provide new evidence on this issue and offers an analysis of social assistance benefit levels in 16 industrialized welfare democracies over the period 1990-2000. It is shown that the period 1990-1995 was characterized primarily by stagnated benefit levels, while in the latter half of the 1990s benefits declined. In most countries, social assistance fails to provide income above the poverty threshold, something that makes it difficult to view these benefits as effective redistributive instruments.
37 pages, December 14, 2009
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