Why deservingness theory needs qualitative research: Comparing focus group discussions on social welfare in three welfare regimes. International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 60(3), 190-216.
Abstract: This article argues that the ever-growing research field of welfare deservingness is in need of qualitative research. Using focus group data collected in Denmark, Germany, and the United Kingdom, we show that citizens discussing matters of social welfare make explicit reference not only to the deservingness criteria of control, reciprocity, and need but also to a number of context-related criteria extending beyond the deservingness framework (e.g. equality/universalism). Furthermore, our findings suggest the existence of an institutional logic to welfare preferences, as the focus group participants to a large extent echoed the normative criteria that are most strongly embedded in the institutional structure of their country’s welfare regime. Whereas financial need is the guiding criterion in the “liberal” United Kingdom, reciprocity is dominant in “corporatist-conservative” Germany. In “social-democratic” Denmark, it appears impossible to single out one dominant normative criterion. Instead, the Danish participants seem torn between the criteria of need, reciprocity, and equality/universalism.