Department of Political Science

“Welfare Queens" and "Poor Carinas”: Social Constructions and the Mental Health of Welfare Clients

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review

Politicians engage in, and the media reflects, socially constructions of welfare recipients as undeserving. Such efforts seek to change public opinion among the mass publics, but what are the effects on the target population receiving welfare benefits? Social construction and policy feedback theory suggest that negative messages can be internalized by target populations, while evidence from public health research shows that people experience psychological costs in response to some forms of stigma, such as racism. We empirically examine if undeserving messages affect the mental health of welfare recipients. To do so, we exploit both a quasi experiment entailing a dramatic shift in deservingness messaging after a welfare recipient in Denmark became the subject of a very public debate, and detailed administrative data on the consumption of anti-depressants by the welfare recipients. We find evidence that welfare recipients experienced worse mental health outcomes after being exposed to negative deservingness messaging.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year2019
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventPublic Management Research Conference - University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, United States
Duration: 11 Jun 201914 Jun 2019


ConferencePublic Management Research Conference
LocationUniversity of North Carolina
CountryUnited States
CityChapel Hill

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ID: 156474019