Two decades after Korpi & Palme’s “paradox of redistribution”: What have we learnt so far and where do we take it from here? Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy.
Abstract: Over two decades ago, Korpi and Palme (1998) published one of the most influential papers in the history of social policy discipline, in which they put forward a “paradox of redistribution”: the more countries target welfare resources exclusively at the poor, the less redistribution is actually achieved and the less income inequality and poverty are reduced. The current paper provides a state-of-the-art review of empirical research into that paradox. More specifically, we break down the paradox into seven core assumptions, which together form a causal chain running from institutional design to redistributive outcomes. For each causal assumption, we offer a comprehensive and critical review of the relevant empirical literature, also including a broader range of studies that do not aim to address Korpi and Palme’s paradox per se, but are nevertheless informative about it.