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Take-up Down Under: Hits and Misses of Means-Tested Benefits in Australia
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2005 (English)In: European Sociological Review, ISSN 0266-7215, E-ISSN 1468-2672, Vol. 22, no 4, 443-458 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Research has revealed considerable non-take-up rates of benefits in western welfare states, which has raised concern that benefits fail to reach their objectives. Most research has focused on means-tested benefits, partly because they are believed to be subject to high stigma deterring people from take-up. I study the take-up of such benefits in Australia, where virtually all cash benefits are means-tested. Using data from the first two waves of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics Australia (HILDA) survey, I estimate the general take-up rate of benefits among people with low assets and incomes and carry out a detailed analysis of take-up of one particular benefit, Parenting Payment. Contrary to the traditional conception of selective welfare states as highly stigmatizing, I find no evidence of a particularly low degree of take-up, and I suggest that stigma of means-tested benefits in Australia may on average be low because they target a relatively large proportion of the population. However, non-take-up appears to be considerable in some population categories where stigma is likely to be relatively high.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Oxford Journals , 2005. Vol. 22, no 4, 443-458 p.
National Category
Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-22632DOI: 10.1093/esr/jcl007OAI: diva2:189190
Part of urn:nbn:se:su:diva-1013Available from: 2006-05-05 Created: 2006-05-05 Last updated: 2010-10-25Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Poor Choices?: On Social Context and the Claiming of Means-tested Benefits
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Poor Choices?: On Social Context and the Claiming of Means-tested Benefits
2006 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In this dissertation, comprising one theoretical chapter and three self-contained empirical studies, I study how the choice to claim means-tested benefits is affected by the social context. In Chapter 1, Considering Choices, I discuss how sociological research can benefit from taking choices into account, and I review the literature on rational choice theory to assess its relevance as a tool for considering choices in sociology.

In Chapter 2, Social Influence Effects on Social Assistance Recipiency, I use aggregated register data on individuals 20–25 years old in Stockholm County during the 1990’s, to study whether Social Assistance (SA) recipiency of others of the same age in the parish of residence is related to one’s own propensity to apply for such benefits: the results show that it has substantial effects on inflow to SA but only weak effects on outflow from SA.

In Chapter 3, Endogenous Neighbourhood Effects on Welfare Use, I use micro-level register data to study these processes among couples in Stockholm. The results corroborate the finding that SA recipiency among people in the neighbourhood substantially affects the probability of inflow to SA recipiency at a given income standard, suggesting self-reinforcing effects of changes in the level of SA. The estimated effects on outflow are negligible.

Chapter 4, Take-up Down Under: The Under-use of Means-tested Benefits in Australia, studies the choices to claim means-tested benefits in Australia. In contrast to Sweden, virtually all benefits in Australia are means-tested. I use survey panel data to estimate the general level of non-take-up of means-tested benefits among the poor, and to study the extent and causes of take-up of Parenting Payment. The results suggest that take-up of means-tested benefits is relatively high in Australia, but that groups likely to experience higher stigma, higher transaction costs, and to have less access to information have lower take-up than others.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Sociologiska institutionen, 2006. 143 p.
Stockholm studies on social mechanisms, ISSN 1403-6851 ; 8
National Category
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-1013 (URN)91-7155-266-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2006-05-27, hörsal 3, hus B, Universitetsvägen 10, Stockholm, 10:00
Available from: 2006-05-05 Created: 2006-05-05Bibliographically approved

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