Do Majoritarian Electoral Systems Lead to Lower Social Spending? the Effect of Recipients' Geographic Concentration

Friday, 3 July 2015: 4:00 PM-5:30 PM
TW1.3.02 (Tower One)
Ignacio Jurado, University of York, York, United Kingdom
Sandra Leon, University of York, York, United Kingdom
The literature on the welfare state has often argued that social spending will be higher under proportional representation systems. However, this argument assumes that social policy recipients are homogenously distributed across jurisdictions, overlooking that beneficiaries might be concentrated in certain regions. Our argument is that politicians’ incentives to provide social policies will be shaped both by the geographic distribution of recipients and the electoral system.

We test this argument by analyzing the provision of paradigmatic national policies, namely unemployment and old age benefits. Our results show that the geographic concentration of recipients is a relevant factor to account for variation in levels of policy provision across electoral systems. When a social group is concentrated in certain regions, majoritarian systems increase the provision of the related social policy. In fact, when concentration is high, the total levels of unemployment and old age benefits are higher than in PR countries, reverting the standard predictions in the literature.