Universalism under siege? Exploring the association between targeting, child benefits and child poverty across 26 countriesUniversalism under siege? Exploring the association between targeting, child benefits and child poverty across 26 countries
Faculty of Social Sciences. Sociology
Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy
Antwerp :University of Antwerp, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, 2014[*]2014
CSB working paper / University of Antwerp, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy ; 2014:01
University of Antwerp
The long-standing wisdom that universally designed benefits outperform targeted benefits in terms of poverty reduction has come under siege. Recent empirical studies tend to find that targeting is not necessarily associated anymore with lower levels of poverty reduction. In this study, we investigate for a broad set of European countries (1) the relationship between child benefits and child poverty reduction; (2) whether a universal or targeted approach is more effective in reducing child poverty; and (3) the causal mechanisms explaining the link between (1) and (2). In doing so, we take into account the general characteristics of the child benefit system, the size of the redistributive budget and the generosity of benefit levels. In contrast to previous studies, we construct an indicator of targeting that captures the design instead of the outcomes of child benefit systems. We find that targeting towards lower incomes is associated with higher levels of child poverty reduction, conditional on the direction of targeting and the characteristics of the benefit system.