Why doesn’t this country have a welfare system that looks like the ones in European countries?

In a seminal 2001 paper, the economists Alberto Alesina, Edward Glaeser and Bruce Sacerdote tried to answer this very question: Why doesn’t this country have a welfare system that looks like the ones in European countries, progressively taxing those with the most wealth to redistribute resources to those with the least? Economic differences, they concluded, don’t explain it. But they did find that “racial fragmentation” has played a “major role” in keeping us from these policies in a way it hasn’t elsewhere. They also find that while Europeans see the poor as members of their own group who are merely unfortunate, Americans see them as lazy “others.” American voters are less likely to demand that their leaders pass policies that help the least well off. “Racial animosity in the U.S. makes redistribution to the poor, who are disproportionately Black, unappealing to many voters,” they conclude.

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