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Is Sweden Being Torn Apart? Privatization and Old and New Patterns of Welfare State Support
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3349-5778
2013 (English)In: Social Policy & Administration, ISSN 0144-5596, E-ISSN 1467-9515, ISSN 0144-5596, Vol. 47, no 5, 542-564 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article examines the potential impact of institutional change on popular welfare support. The encompassing welfare state of Sweden provides an interesting case where the privatization of socialservice delivery has been widespread over the last decades. We use survey data from five rounds of the Swedish Welfare State Survey (1992, 1997, 2002, 2006 and 2010) in order to study how public preferences for the financing and organization of welfare services have changed over time. Based on a theory describing an ideal-typical pattern of public support for an encompassing welfare model, we derive three types of public preferences: support for a pure state model, a pure market model and a mixed model (welfare services are funded by taxes but provided by private firms). We begin by tracking the development of these ideal-typical attitude patterns between 1992 and 2010. We then investigate how preference patterns vary across municipalities displaying different degrees of privatization of social service delivery. Our results show that welfare support among Swedes over the last decades is better characterized as dynamic rather than stable. Swedes seem to take an overall more ideologically based position on the role of the welfare state over time. The share of respondents expressing such ideologically based preferences has increased from 54 per cent in 1992 to 78 per cent in 2010. This change is principally manifested in increased support for the state and mixed models. This trend seems to be parallel to the increasing share of private welfare service providers over the last decade. We also find a link between the municipal degree of privatization and support for ourthree ideal-typical welfare models. Public support for a mixed welfare model and, to some extent, a market model, is comparatively stronger in municipalities where welfare services to a large extent are carried out by private actors. Conversely, data shows that public support for the traditional Swedish state model is more widespread in municipalities having a low degree of welfare services privatization. Lastly, we discuss some theoretical implications of our findings.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
John Wiley & Sons, 2013. Vol. 47, no 5, 542-564 p.
Keyword [en]
Welfare state; Social Services; Privatization; Attitudes; Public Opinion; Sweden
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-80159DOI: 10.1111/spol.12021OAI: diva2:647168
Available from: 2013-09-10 Created: 2013-09-10 Last updated: 2016-02-01

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Edlund, JonasJohansson Sevä, Ingemar
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