A political revolution now under way among Western countries may have drastic repercussions on the poor. For most of the post-war period, government programmes designed to raise the income share of the poor proliferated and expanded. In the wake of the world-wide slowdown in economic growth following the first oil embargo of 1973, critics argued that the gains from redistributional programmes are far outweighed by adverse side-effects that reduce work and savings. These arguments have been taken with increasing seriousness. In the United States, England, Germany, and even in the Netherlands and Scandinavia, public income transfer programmes have been or are being cut back. On the face of it, only France and Italy seem to be resisting this trend; Switzerland, though it partook in the rapid expansion of the earlier period, has temporarily reached a plateau in spending.
* The conference at which these papers were presented and the preparation for this issue of the Journal of Social Policy were made possible by grants from the Council for European Studies and the University of Wisconsin International Studies Programme and by support provided by the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Conference Centre. In addition to the authors and discussants whose contributions appear here, the following people participated in the conference: Shepard Forman, the Ford Foundation; Victor Halberstadt, University of Leyden; Charles Hamilton, Columbia University; Richard Hemming, International Monetary Fund; Pierre Pestieau, University of Liège; Anita Pfaff, International Institute for Empirical Social Economics; Jean-Claude Ray, University of Nancy; Michael Spackman, HM Treasury (UK); and Jacques van der Gaag, the World Bank. The authors thank Elizabeth Evanson and Elizabeth Uhr for their excellent editorial assistance with all the papers.
† Professor of Social Work and Director, Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin, Madison.
‡ Professor of Economics, University of Wisconsin, Madison.