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Does culture shape the demand for social insurance against risks to health and work? We study this issue across language groups in Switzerland where a language border sharply separates social groups at identical actual levels of publicly provided social insurance. We find substantially stronger support for expansions of social insurance among residents of French, Italian or Romansh-speaking language border municipalities compared with their German-speaking neighbours in adjacent municipalities. Informal insurance does not vary enough to explain stark differences in social insurance but differences in ideology and segmented media markets potentially contribute to the discrepancy in demand for social insurance.