Tijs Laenen

I’m Tijs Laenen

Social Worker turned Social Scientist

About Me

Let me introduce myself

I am a social worker turned social scientist, currently working as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences of Tilburg University (the Netherlands) and the Centre for Sociological Research of KU Leuven (Belgium). My main research interest and expertise lies in studying popular attitudes towards differently targeted and differently organized welfare state policies.


Areas of expertise

Welfare state

There is no denying that the benefits and services provided by social welfare states -such as childcare, unemployment benefits and old-age pensions- play a pivotal role in our everyday lives. That is why I have always found it massively intriguing and important to try and understand the ins and outs of the welfare state, especially at present, when rising inequality, transforming labor markets, migration and other demographic developments exert additional pressures on welfare states and raise important questions about their future directions.

Public opinion

The focus of my research is on the social legitimacy of the welfare state, understood as the support for different social benefits and services among the general public. Who supports what parts of the welfare state, and why? Being a firm believer in the mixed-method approach, I use both quantitative data such as (cross-national) surveys and qualitative data such as focus groups and in-depth interviews to measure public opinion towards the welfare state.

Welfare deservingness

As a PhD researcher, I focused on popular deservingness opinions and their interaction with welfare policies. Which target groups are considered deserving of social welfare, and how are such opinions related to the design characteristics of existing policies? The main argument is that there is a reciprocal relationship between welfare deservingness and welfare policy. While deservingness opinions affect, through various mechanisms of policy responsiveness, how welfare policies are designed and implemented, welfare policies in turn influence popular notions of deservingness through various mechanisms of policy feedback.

Welfare policy design

My main focus as a postdoctoral researcher is on studying the social legitimacy of different institutional designs of welfare policies. Should benefits and services be universally accessible to all, selectively targeted at the poor only, or somewhere in-between? By scrutinizing under which circumstances -when, where and why- some policy design options are more popular than others, I aim to make a considerable contribution to the academic literature and political debates regarding universal vis-à-vis selective welfare provision.


Laenen (2023).

  • April 28, 2022

Laenen (2023).

The Popularity of Basic Income. Evidence from the Polls. Palgrave Macmillan.

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Laenen, Marchal & Van Lancker (2023).

  • December 21, 2023

Laenen, Marchal & Van Lancker (2023).

Policy feedback and income targeting in the welfare state. Journal of Social Policy.

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Laenen, Mulayi, Francisco & Van Lancker (2023).

  • September 13, 2023

Laenen, Mulayi, Francisco & Van Lancker (2023).

Basic Income in Belgium survey: experimental data on citizens’ attitudes towards a variety of basic income policies. Data in Brief.

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Get in touch


Parkstraat 45 – box 3601

3000 Leuven, Belgium.

Phone Number

+32 16 37 44 23