Fang, A. H., & Huber, G. A. (2019). Perceptions of Deservingness and the Politicization of Social Insurance: Evidence From Disability Insurance in the United States. American Politics Research, Available online July 29, 2019, DOI: 10.1177/1532673X19863439
Concerns about the deservingness of policy beneficiaries appear to explain skepticism about redistributive social assistance programs. Many social insurance programs, despite requiring beneficiaries to pay in ahead of time, require discretionary evaluations of the merits of claims for benefits. Do perceptions of deservingness also affect attitudes toward these discretionary social insurance programs? Examining the politics of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), a program whose size and beneficiaries have been increasingly politicized, we investigate these questions by analyzing novel survey data and two experiments conducted on national surveys. We show that people use information about a beneficiary’s eligibility-determining impairment—but not their race, which prior work argues is a key heuristic—to infer their deservingness. Moreover, support for SSDI is responsive to policy arguments emphasizing the program’s social insurance features and potential abuse. Our findings demonstrate important psychological processes relevant to the contemporary politicization of social insurance programs involving discretionary eligibility rules.
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