Chapter 6 adopts a qualitative approach to the study of welfare deservingness to address two hitherto unanswered questions in deservingness literature: (1) Which deservingness criteria, if any, do people spontaneously apply when discussing matters of social welfare? and (2) What concrete meaning do abstract deservingness criteria have to people, and how do they apply them? Using focus group data gathered in Denmark, Germany and the UK, we show that citizens made explicit reference to the deservingness criteria of control, reciprocity and need, but also to a number of ‘sociotropic’ criteria (e.g., equality/universalism) that are beyond the deservingness framework because they refer to the broader context instead of characteristics of welfare targets. Our findings also suggest the existence of an institutional logic to welfare preferences, as the participants to a large extent echoed those normative criteria that are most strongly embedded in the institutional structure of their country’s welfare regime.
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