Verena Fetscher

Postdoctoral Researcher

University of Hamburg


I am a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Hamburg and an Associate Member of Nuffield College, University of Oxford. My research is in comparative political economy. I study preferences and decision-making. Central questions I am interested in are why some people support higher levels of redistribution than others and what role welfare state institutions and considerations of fairness play for redistribution preferences. My current research further examines the effect of variation in regional economic well-being on political preferences and anti-immigration attitudes.

Methodologically, I combine quantitative observational analyses with experimental approaches. The institutional dimensions I am interested in are difficult to study in isolation. I therefore draw from real-world variations and utilize laboratory and online experiments to study the underlying mechanisms in more controlled settings.

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


  • Redistribution Preferences
  • Fairness Concerns
  • 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

Working Paper

Equalizing Incomes over Time: Why Structural Differences in Social Insurance Matter for Redistribution Preferences

Why do the rich support more income redistribution in some Western European welfare states than in others? The article builds on structural differences in the governing principle of social insurance. Flat-rate systems provide social benefits in equal amounts to everyone in need, while earnings-related systems provide benefits in relation to previous earnings. These differences have implications for future income equalization. If individual incomes have a fair (effort) and an unfair (luck) component, and if there is a risk of becoming unemployed in the future, earnings-related systems maintain fair and unfair income differences over time, while flat-rate systems equalize both components in the future. With a combination of observational and experimental data, I show that average support for redistribution among the better-off is higher in earnings-related systems, and that participants in laboratory experiments are less concerned about inequality in endowments if social insurance is governed by the flat- rate principle.

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

Book Project

Let's Talk about the Welfare State: Preferences, Fairness, and Institutions of the Welfare State

Why do the rich support income redistribution? In this book project, I first assess the link between welfare state institutions and preferences for redistribution. Second, I study whether people are aware of the mechanics of the welfare state they live in. And third, I evaluate whether people living in different welfare states differ in their perspectives of which system they deem more fair. The book project will provide a novel approach towards people’s redistribution preferences, the nature of the welfare state, and considerations of fairness.