Verena Fetscher

Postdoctoral Researcher

University of Hamburg


I am a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Hamburg. I am also an Associate Member of Nuffield College (University of Oxford). My research is in comparative political economy. I study preference formation and political representations. Central questions I am interested in are why some people support higher levels of redistribution than others and what role institutional factors, identity and questions of fairness play as determinants for redistribution preferences. My current work further assesses the link between descriptive representation and substantive decision-making power in the German context. Methodologically, I combine quantitative observational analyses with experimental approaches.

I am currently teaching seminars on topics in comparative political economy and on the politics of representation and economic inequality at the University of Hamburg. Previously, I have thought seminars in comparative political economy at the University of Mannheim.


  • Redistribution Preferences
  • Political Representation
  • Experimental Methods


  • PhD in Political Science, 2019

    University of Mannheim

  • MSc in Political Science, 2014

    Uppsala University

  • BA in Political Science, 2011

    University of Mannheim


Explaining Support for Redistribution: Social Insurance Systems and Fairness.

Why do high-income earners support higher levels of income redistribution in some countries than in others? I argue that differences in the social insurance design have consequences for fairness considerations and that this matters for preference formation. Flat-rate systems provide social benefits in equal amounts to everyone in need, while earnings-related systems provide benefits in relation to previous earnings. In the case of income loss, earnings-related systems maintain unfair income differences, while flat- rate systems equalize unfair income differences between the rich and the poor. Cross-national patterns reveal that support for redistribution among the rich is higher in income-maintaining welfare states. For a strict test of my fairness argument, I conduct a laboratory experiment and show that participants reduce inequality more if given endowment differences are maintained in the case of loss.

Working Paper

For Richer and for Poorer: Income, Perceptions of Inequality and Support for Redistribution

In this paper we focus on perceptions of (or beliefs about) macro inequality and we argue that perceptions matter differently to the rich and the poor. We hypothesise that material and other-regarding factors make inequality perceptions push the redistribution preferences of the poor in a similar direction (i.e., more perceived inequality, more support for redistribution). For the rich, we argue that material self-interest and other-regarding concerns push redistribution preferences in opposing directions. Our paper attempts a degree of methodological triangulation by developing both an observational and an experimental analysis supporting our theoretical claims. First we show how perceptions matter for the rich and for the poor in an analysis of ISSP data (1999, 2009 and 2019). We then develop an online survey experiment (fielded in the UK in the summer of 2022) with a randomized information treatment designed to shift perceptions of macro inequality.

Gendered Policy Making? Access of female MPs to legislative committees in German State Legislatures

Much work has been done on the gender composition of parliaments but less is know about access and position of female MPs to/in parliamentary committees. These committees exert important policy-making powers in many parliamentary democracies. We show that access to committees is gendered, and women are less likely to become members and chairs of more important committees such as finance or economics. We argue that this gendered access is not merely explainable by factors such as competence, expertise and experience but also due to potential self-selection and discrimination. We propose theoretical and empirical ways to distinguish the two. We test our arguments with unique individual level data on MPs of the German Bundestag and state parliaments since 1948. Our results show that there is gender bias in access and composition of legislative committees that is somewhat mitigated by experience and expertise of MPs. Our results help linking aspects of descriptive representation of women and their ability to influence policy-decisions.

Why Does it Matter Who They Are? Fairness, Ingroup Favoritism, and Preferences for Redistribution

Some political economists argue that who the poor are matters for whether the rich support redistribution. I propose that whether and how social identity influences redistribution preferences depends on the fairness ideal that people endorse. I implement a laboratory study which allows for behavioral heterogeneity across fairness types, and for a distinction between preference-based and information-based identity mechanisms. Results suggest that participants adhere to liberal, parochial/luck egalitarian, and welfare maximizing principles of fairness. Only the parochial/luck egalitarian subgroup reveals ingroup favoritism. The evidence supports a preference-based explanation and suggest that information is important for absolute levels of inequality reduction.

Labor Market Risks, Other-Regarding Concerns, and the Institutional Arrangement of the Welfare State

Social insurance models prominently argue that selfish demand for future bene- fits explains support for redistribution among the rich. In this article, I posit that social insurance defines the scope of other-regarding preferences. The welfare state provides benefits to insure against individual exposure to labor market risks. Some welfare states provide social safety nets and benefits are provided in equal amounts to everyone, while in others, benefits are related to previous earnings and stabi- lize individual incomes over the life-cycle. These structural differences define the relative impact of labor market risks on individual income, and consequently, the stability of one’s living status over time. I employ simulated unemployment replacement rates to construct a measure for the governing principle of social insurance and show that average support for redistribution is higher in earnings-related systems. Labor market risk has a stronger impact on redistribution preferences in flat-rate systems. Experimental evidence shows that risky endowments influence transfer shares negatively. Previous social insurance approaches have not taken into account the other-regarding perspective.

Work in Progress