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In his or her opinion?: the gender gap in attitudes toward the welfare state in Sweden and Europe
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology. Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå Centre for Gender Studies (UCGS).
2021 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)Alternative title
Kvinnors och mäns attityder till välfärdsstaten i Sverige och Europa (Swedish)
Abstract [en]

Background This thesis explores differences in the attitudes that men and women hold toward the welfare state by investigating previously neglected areas concerning how attitudes differ between welfare states, as well as the role played by emotional and psychological attachment to a gender group. The studies analyze how gender differences in welfare state attitudes relate to social policies and prevailing gender relations, as well as to the process of social identification with a gender group. They also provide evidence on the longitudinal development of attitudinal gender differences in Sweden.

Methods All four studies rely on survey data. One part of this thesis consists of a comparison between countries in Europe that utilizes a multilevel analysis to examine how the interaction between family policy and gender (in)equalities in the division of unpaid labor is related to gender differences in support for the government’s responsibility to provide social welfare. A second part consists of analyzing trends in multiple attitudes toward the Swedish welfare state, covering both normative and evaluative aspects of welfare state support for the years 1981–2018. A third part consists of examining welfare state attitudes in Sweden during the year 2018. Here, the focus is on social identification with a gender group and its potential role as an intermediary factor in the relationship between gender and welfare state attitudes. 

Results The gender gap in people’s support for the government’s role in providing social welfare varies among European countries, with attitudes differing most in countries where men and women share more equally in performing unpaid care and domestic labor. Conversely, men and women do not display differences in their welfare state attitudes in countries where inequalities in the division of unpaid labor are widespread. However, the relationship between gender (in)equality in unpaid labor and welfare state attitudes is shaped by the institutional design. In countries where family policies subsidize women’s caregiving within families without public alternatives—thus normatively conveying the resulting gender inequalities as corresponding to inherent differences in caregiving capabilities—this relationship does not exist. The last four decades of attitudes toward the Swedish welfare state demonstrate no clear trends revealing whether gender differences are diverging or converging; nevertheless, the correlational evidence of contextual variation in the attitudinal gender gap speaks in favor of progression in gender equality as being coupled with larger attitudinal differences. Regarding social identification with a gender group, this process is not connected with observed gender differences in people’s suspicion of welfare overuse in Sweden. However, when compared with both women and other men, men with a strong gender identification are less willing to increase social spending in Sweden. The observed relationships match the predictions made when theorizing social identification with a gender group as enhancing attentiveness to gendered self-interest among men under conditions of potential masculinity threat and thus increasing the likelihood of adopting stereotypically masculine attitudes toward equality and social welfare. 

Conclusions Gender differences in welfare state attitudes are not universal. An integrated theory of gender differences in welfare state attitudes should account for the interplay between structuring aspects of the welfare state and prevailing gender norms, and how these relate to psychological aspects of gender as a social identity. Attitudinal gender differences should therefore be understood in terms of what type of welfare state men and women are expressing their attitudes toward and how this welfare state affects gender relations. Attachment to their gender group seems to be of special importance for men’s attitudes. However, this is only true for dimensions where the welfare state can be viewed as a threat to masculinity by undercutting the normative connection between masculinity and breadwinning. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2021. , p. 77
Series
Akademiska avhandlingar vid Sociologiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, ISSN 1104-2508 ; 86
Keywords [en]
Welfare State, Attitudes, Gender, Social identification, Masculinity threat, Family policy
National Category
Sociology Gender Studies
Research subject
Sociology; gender studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-189816ISBN: 978-91-7855-702-8 (electronic)ISBN: 978-91-7855-701-1 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-189816DiVA, id: diva2:1613431
Public defence
2021-12-17, Triple Helix, Samverkanshuset, Universitetstorget 4, Umeå, 13:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Part of project
Welfare opinion 2017, Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2016-00255Available from: 2021-11-26 Created: 2021-11-22 Last updated: 2021-11-25Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The gender gap in welfare state attitudes in Europe: the role of unpaid labour and family policy
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The gender gap in welfare state attitudes in Europe: the role of unpaid labour and family policy
2020 (English)In: Journal of European Social Policy, ISSN 0958-9287, E-ISSN 1461-7269, Vol. 30, no 4, p. 452-466Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Previous research has shown a prevailing 'modern gender gap' in socio-political attitudes in advanced capitalist economies. While numerous studies have confirmed gender differences in attitudes toward the welfare state in Europe, few have addressed the reason for this rift in men's and women's views about the role of government in ensuring the general welfare of citizens. In this paper, I examine the relationship between gender equality in unpaid labour, family policy and the gender gap in welfare state attitudes. Based on data from 21 countries participating in the European Social Survey (ESS) round 4, and using a mix of country- and individual-level regression models and multilevel models, I find that there is a clear relationship between country-level gender equality in unpaid labour and gender differences in support of an encompassing welfare state. A more equal distribution of unpaid care and domestic work correlates with women being increasingly supportive of a large and encompassing welfare state, in comparison with men. This pattern holds when controlling for individual-level economic risk and resources, cultural factors such as trust and social values traditionally related to support of an encompassing welfare state, and beliefs about welfare state efficiency and consequences for society in general. This pattern is evident for countries with a low level of familistic policies, while no distinguishable pattern is discernible for highly familistic countries. These findings have implications for the perception of gender as an emergent social cleavage with respect to welfare state attitudes. The results are discussed in the light of institutional theories on policy feedback, familism, social role theory and previous findings relating to modernization theory and 'gender realignment'.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sage Publications, 2020
Keywords
Attitudes, comparative research, division of labour, family policy, gender gap, gender roles, unpaid labour, welfare state
National Category
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-167897 (URN)10.1177/0958928719899337 (DOI)000512229600001 ()2-s2.0-85079116254 (Scopus ID)
Projects
Välfärdsopinion 2017
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2016-00255
Available from: 2020-02-05 Created: 2020-02-05 Last updated: 2023-03-24Bibliographically approved
2. Support for the Swedish welfare state: The role of socioeconomic and sociocultural conflict in four decades of public opinion
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Support for the Swedish welfare state: The role of socioeconomic and sociocultural conflict in four decades of public opinion
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Sociology Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalisation Studies)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-189814 (URN)
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2016-07177Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2016-00255
Available from: 2021-11-22 Created: 2021-11-22 Last updated: 2021-11-30
3. Not all men, nor all women: strength of gender identification and social spending preferences in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Not all men, nor all women: strength of gender identification and social spending preferences in Sweden
2023 (English)In: Acta Sociologica, ISSN 0001-6993, E-ISSN 1502-3869, Vol. 66, no 3Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The gender gap in welfare state attitudes is the tendency of men to be less positive toward an encompassing welfare state than women. To study attitudinal gender differences at the individual level, this paper synthesizes prior explanations, focused on self-interest and norms, with a social identity perspective, centered on the process of social identification with a gender group. With representative survey data (n = 1515), covering social spending preferences in Sweden, this study uses a psychometric instrument to gauge the emotional and psychological centrality of gender to individuals’ concept of self—thus distinguishing between men and women with different degrees of attachment to their gender group (strength of gender identification). The results show a strong gender identification is negatively related to social spending preferences for men, but not for women. The findings are discussed in the light the influence of gender norms and masculinity threat, highlighting the structuring and normative implications of social policy for gender differences in attitudes toward the Swedish welfare state.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sage Publications, 2023
Keywords
Gender, identification, attitudes, welfare state, social spending, masculinity threat, Sweden
National Category
Sociology Gender Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-189815 (URN)10.1177/00016993221108920 (DOI)000832733200001 ()2-s2.0-85135177154 (Scopus ID)
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2016-00255
Note

Originally included in thesis in manuscript form.

Available from: 2021-11-22 Created: 2021-11-22 Last updated: 2023-09-04Bibliographically approved
4. Suspicion of Welfare Overuse in Sweden: The Role of Left–Right Ideology, Anti‐Immigrant Attitudes and Gender
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Suspicion of Welfare Overuse in Sweden: The Role of Left–Right Ideology, Anti‐Immigrant Attitudes and Gender
2021 (English)In: Scandinavian Political Studies, ISSN 0080-6757, E-ISSN 1467-9477, Vol. 44, no 2, p. 115-139Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this study, we explore individual differences in suspicion of welfare overuse in Sweden. Focusing on previously underdeveloped areas, we find that the hitherto observed negative relationship between political interest and suspicion of welfare overuse is only valid for those who sympathize with political parties to the left (and to a lesser extent the Green Party). Conversely, individuals who sympathize with centre‐right parties or right‐wing populists differ little internally depending on their level of political interest. We also find a strong positive correlation between anti‐immigrant attitudes and suspicion about welfare overuse. Finally, we find that women are less suspicious of welfare overuse than men are, and that this cannot be attributed to gender differences in material risks or resources, education, experiences of welfare services, general trustfulness, anti‐immigrant sentiment or political orientation. Neither do gender differences vary according to strength of gender identification. Thus, being suspicious about welfare overuse is not likely to be perceived as a typically masculine or feminine posture. Based on our findings, we argue that future studies exploring partisan or ideological differences in perceptions of welfare overuse need to consider these in conjunction with political interest and political context; that rising anti‐immigrant sentiments pose a particularly serious threat to the legitimacy of welfare states, given their strong connectedness to suspicion of welfare overuse; and that gender differences in perceptions of welfare overuse are more fruitfully addressed through a lens of gender relations, rather than gender role stereotypes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
John Wiley & Sons, 2021
Keywords
Welfare overuse; Public opinion Partisanship Political rhetoric Gender Anti-immigrant attitudes
National Category
Sociology Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalisation Studies)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-176589 (URN)10.1111/1467-9477.12190 (DOI)000583799100001 ()2-s2.0-85096682214 (Scopus ID)
Projects
Välfärdsopinion 2017
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2016‐00255
Available from: 2020-11-09 Created: 2020-11-09 Last updated: 2023-03-24Bibliographically approved

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