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Local contexts, social risks and social spending preferences: a multi-level approach
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2009 (English)In: Acta Sociologica, ISSN 0001-6993, E-ISSN 1502-3869, Vol. 52, no 3, 249-262 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this article, I analyse the relationship between local context and individuals´ social spending preferences in Sweden. The contextual unit studied is the municipality and the analyses are based on both individual-level survey data (n = 5,324) and municipal-level data. Multi-level modelling is used to handle data at both levels simultaneously. It is suggested that the presence of social risks in the local community affects whether individuals are willing to support high social spending. It is argued that the interdependent nature of certa in social risks, such as local unemployment rates, depopulation and labour market structure, is an important factor explaining contextual influence on social spending preferences. The results indicate that the prevalence of social risks in a municipality affect the willingness of local inhabitants to support high social spending. Support for high social spending tends to be greater, taking individual-level determinants into account, in municipalities suffering from unemployment, ill health, depopulation, a low tax base and an industry sector dominated by agriculture and manufacturing. This finding also indicates that contextual influence on olitical attitudes might not be restricted to interpersonal interaction, as often suggested in past research.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 52, no 3, 249-262 p.
Keyword [en]
attitudes, local context multi-level, social spending, Sweden, welfare state
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-25994DOI: 10.1177/0001699309339801OAI: diva2:235676
Available from: 2009-09-17 Created: 2009-09-17 Last updated: 2010-06-08Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Welfare state attitudes in context: local contexts and attitude formation in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Welfare state attitudes in context: local contexts and attitude formation in Sweden
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Welfare state attitudes are often studied from the perspective of the individual's characteristics and/or national or regime-type contexts. This thesis instead seeks explanations for individuals' varying attitudes towards the welfare state at the level of local contexts (municipalities). Sweden is used as a case for testing whether there are such contextual effects. The general aim is to find out whether social, political, and institutional aspects of local context influence the attitudes of individuals.

Since the general aim of this thesis is to examine how background characteristics of individuals and characteristics of local contexts simultaneously act in shaping individuals' attitudes, I use multilevel modelling in order to handle individual-level and contextual-level data simultaneously. Latent-class analysis (LCA) is also employed in the analyses to explore the patterning of variables. This is mainly done in order to create dependent variables and to distinguish between categories of municipalities sharing similar characteristics.  The data consist of Swedish survey data, which have been complemented by municipal-level data.

The findings indicate that the social and political context of municipalities can matter for individuals' attitude formation. Variation across municipalities in terms of the prevalence of social problems and risks seems to influence how individuals view the welfare state. Local municipal contexts characterized by many social problems and risks tend to be associated with more welfare state friendly attitudes among the local inhabitants, after taking individual-level determinants into account. Support for high social spending is greater in such milieus as is the tendency to view welfare beneficiaries with less suspicion regarding the potential abuse of welfare policies. Regarding the influence of local public service provision on attitudes, no evidence was found for feedback effects on individuals' attitudes toward public service privatization.

In their attitudes towards the welfare state, individuals are to some extent influenced by their local environment. There seems to be a 'built in' thermostat in the Swedish welfare state. Local circumstances characterized by social problems and risks tend to be associated with a local citizenry having more welfare state-friendly attitudes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Sociologiska institutionen, 2009
Akademiska avhandlingar vid Sociologiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, ISSN 1104-2508 ; 55
Welfare state, attitudes, local context, municipalities, multilevel analysis, Sweden
National Category
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-21046 (URN)978-91-7264-777-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2009-04-24, Hörsal E, Humanisthuset, Umeå, 13:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2009-04-03 Created: 2009-04-02 Last updated: 2010-06-08Bibliographically approved

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