DOI: 10.1177/09589287241229326 ISSN: 0958-9287

Agency, institutions, and welfare chauvinism: Tracing the exclusion of European Union migrant citizens from social assistance in Germany

Dominic Afscharian, Cecilia Bruzelius, Martin Seeleib-Kaiser
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • General Social Sciences

What explains welfare chauvinistic policy reform, that is, targeted exclusion of non-citizens from welfare? Existing research suggest that contextual factors like far-right party success, perceived immigration pressures, party ideologies and institutions could spur such reform, but the processes behind reforms remain understudied. This article draws on public policy literature to call attention the critical role of agency and institutions in welfare chauvinist reform. It focuses on a law excluding migrant EU citizens from social assistance in Germany. Through process tracing and inductive reconstruction of the policy process, based on political documents, interviews, media reporting and descriptive statistics, we show that the policy proposal originated from German city administrations; that the city of Hamburg was key in pushing for exclusions; and that Hamburg’s success in doing so crucially depended on the city’s mayor. Several comparable German cities (in terms of party politics and levels of immigration) were equally concerned with ‘welfare immigration’ and complained about problem pressure, but only Hamburg had a committed mayor with the right political networks and institutional resources to lobby for welfare exclusions at the federal level.

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