DOI: 10.1111/spol.12984 ISSN: 0144-5596

How do right‐wing populist majoritarian governments redistribute? Evidence from Poland, 2005–2019

Leszek Morawski, Michal Brzezinski
  • Public Administration
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Development


There is scarce evidence regarding redistribution policies implemented by right‐wing populist parties forming majority governments. We contribute to this literature by measuring the effects of sweeping reforms of the tax and benefit system carried out by the populist party PiS governing Poland since 2015. The reforms included a generous, unconditional, and universal child benefit. Using micro‐simulation‐based decompositions of relative poverty, we separate poverty changes due to the populists' policies (policy effects) from observed poverty changes. We found that populists' reforms from 2015 to 2019 had large poverty‐reducing effects: total poverty was brought down by more than 2 percentage points, while child poverty by about 6.5 points. However, the policy effects account ‘only’ for about half of overall poverty declines over this period. On the other hand, they are much bigger than those obtained previously by a coalition of mainstream parties (2007–2011) or a coalition of populist ones (2005–2007). Since 2015, the populists' reforms targeted social groups that were neglected or inadequately addressed by anti‐poverty policies by past governments. Our results suggest that, at least in conservative and ethnically homogeneous societies, right‐wing populist majoritarian governments are capable of carrying out large‐scale redistribution projects that lead to sizeable poverty reductions and include non‐chauvinist, universal cash transfers.

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