Who Persists? Explaining the Pursuit of Social Welfare Benefits in Brazil

429 Muirhead Tower
Tuesday 14 November 2023 (13:00-14:30)

Convenor: Dr Kailing Xie

matthew winters

With speaker Professor Matthew S Winters (Department of Political Science University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign)

Gaining and maintaining access to government social welfare programs often requires significant and sustained effort by potential beneficiaries; the difficulty of engaging in that effort can deter individuals targeted by these programs. What explains why some individuals persist in pursuit of state benefits while others do not? We argue that individual attitudes and beliefs that affect (1) the psychological costs of interacting with the state and/or (2) the expected likelihood of receiving program benefits impact citizens’ behavior vis-a-vis the state. In novel survey data from Brazil, we develop a new measure of persistence, along with novel measures of attitudes and beliefs that affect the perceived costs and benefits of pursuing social programs. Specifically, we study entitlement and indignation, which affect psychological costs, and self-efficacy and expectations of the state, which affect perceived benefits. We provide evidence of strong correlations between these variables and individual-level willingness to persist in pursuit of government programs. Finally, we show that sociodemographic variables poorly predict these attitudes and offer some preliminary speculation about other sources of these attitudes and beliefs.


Matthew S. Winters is Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Illinois. He has won the Fulbright-University of Birmingham Distinguished Scholar Award. His research interests include the allocation and effectiveness of foreign aid, the political-economy of governance, and voter attitudes toward corruption. He has conducted research in Bangladesh, Brazil, Indonesia, Malawi, Mali, and Uganda. Winters has published articles in Journal of Politics, World Politics, Comparative Political Studies, Comparative Politics, International Studies Quarterly, and World Development, among other outlets, and has worked as a consultant for USAID, AusAID, and the World Bank’s Independent Evaluations Group. Winters received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia University, was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance at Princeton University, and has held a Council on Foreign Relations / Hitachi International Affairs Fellowship in Japan.

The IDD Guest Seminar Series brings scholars and practitioners working on international development to the University of Birmingham to share their latest research and ideas. All seminars are open to staff, students, and the general public. For details of upcoming seminars please follow us on twitter @iddbirmingham

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