Science Pops Open, Ep. 5: Optimizing Welfare…and Equality

Research fellows of the AXA Research Fund tell the story of their work to reduce an array of risks

The design of social welfare programs is vitally important and rife with challenges. As governments tighten their budgets, welfare policies are frequently called into question. With his PhD research, Sean Slack is working to provide some insight. His work is based on theoretical modelling of an "ideal" situation: an economy where there is a well-defined needy group in society. In reality, the government can only imperfectly identify this group. Listen to Sean explain his results, which help identify where the state needs to be most effective, in order to optimize the welfare benefits system.

Cet article existe également en français : https://www.mysciencework.com/news/11916/science-pops-open-ep-5-optimiser-le-systeme-de-protection-sociale-pour-plus-d-egalite

 

The design of social welfare programs is vitally important and rife with challenges. As governments tighten their budgets, welfare policies are frequently called into question. How can costs and disincentives be limited without disadvantaging those genuinely in need? In a perfect world, governments would always be able to identify which individuals are in need of some form of benefits.

In reality, the state makes mistakes: some needy individuals may be incorrectly denied benefits, while some non-needy individuals may be incorrectly awarded benefits. Such mistakes introduce inequities into society since those who ought to be treated identically by the welfare system are not. The question is then how these errors, and the extent to which they are made, affect the optimal design of welfare programs.

With his PhD research, Sean Slack is working to provide some insights into these questions. Sean’s work is based on theoretical modelling of an economy where there is a well-defined needy group in society, whereas the government can only imperfectly identify this group. His results show that the accuracy of the government’s test in awarding benefits and, further, how well the conditions placed on applicants are enforced, are influential in determining the optimal design of welfare programs. Research like Sean’s could be used to inform the welfare reforms currently taking place in many countries, to ensure that inappropriate benefit claims are not honored, nor are people in need unjustly refused.

Sean explains his work best, with clarity and expertise. In this short presentation from the 2014 AXA Pop Days, he reveals the multiple factors at play in optimizing social welfare.  

Next Monday:

Do you remember your teenage years? Who can forget! Adolescence is a time of discovery, but also of risk-taking. Dr. Kiki Zanolie wanted to know why: What, specifically, is happening in teenagers’ brains to make them knowingly run risks? The results of her studies of brain regions involved in decision-making may hold an answer to that question. 

Past Episodes of Science Pops Open:

Ep. 1 – Your body can defend itself against cancer. It just needs a little help!, with Margot Cucchetti 

Ep. 2 – Improving outcomes of crisis and conflict, thanks to an ethnographic outlook, with Ruben Andersson

Ep. 3 – After an Earthquake, the Show Must Go On, with Anna Reggio

Ep. 4 – Disrupting the Sleeping Sickness Symphony, with Fabien Guegan