Social income transfers and poverty: A cross-country analysis for OECD countries


Ferry Koster, Sociology Department, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Burgemeester Oudlaan 50, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail:


Caminada K, Goudswaard K, Koster F. Social income transfers and poverty: a cross-country analysis for OECD countries

Poverty alleviation is an important policy objective in developed welfare states. This article reports on a study of the association between social transfer policies and poverty. It has been claimed in several studies that based on a simple bivariate approach, high social effort goes along with low poverty levels. Empirical studies have also found that factors such as demographic and economic conditions may also have an influence on poverty, affecting the relationship between social spending and poverty. In the present study, we empirically analysed the impact of social expenditure on poverty for the period 1985–2005, and in contrast to previous research, demographic and macroeconomic differences across countries were controlled for. Quite a strong negative relationship was still found between the level of social expenditure and poverty. Ageing and unemployment rates were found to have some explanatory power but without affecting the association between social transfers and poverty. Thus, the multivariate approach chosen in this study confirms the results of earlier research.