Distributive justice and attitudes toward the welfare state

Noah Lewin-Epstein, Amit Kaplan, Asaf Levanon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Current debates concerning the viability of the welfare state evoke the question of the social bases of support of the welfare state. Past research has documented fairly consistent relationships between sociodemographic characteristics and attitudes toward welfare policies. Yet, the nature of these relationships is not well understood. In the paper we argue that the level of support for the welfare state is largely determined by the principles of distributive justice espoused by individuals as well as their images of society. We develop a theoretical framework, which outlines the structural relationship between social attributes, principles of justice, perceived conflict, and support for the welfare state. Using data from a recent population survey on the legitimation of inequality, conducted in Israel in 1999 (N = 1057), we test a number of hypotheses. For the empirical analysis we use structural equation modeling with multiple indicators. Our findings reveal substantial support for policies aimed at reducing inequality. At the same time we find strong support for rewards according to merit and unequal earnings distribution. The impact of social attributes on attitudes toward the welfare state is partially mediated by the justice principles and images of society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalSocial Justice Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Distributive justice
  • ISSP
  • Inequality
  • Welfare state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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