Herke, Boglárka – Janky, Béla (2021) The Role of the Deservingness Criteria in the Case of Single Mothers’ Perceived Welfare Deservingness in Hungary. Journal of Social Policy, 2021, 1–21. doi:10.1017/S004727942100074X
A growing number of studies investigate the relative importance of the major deservingness criteria (control, attitude, reciprocity, identity, need) in explaining the perceived welfare deservingness of different social groups. This paper addresses the roles of those criteria in predicting the perceived deservingness of a rarely examined group, single mothers. We conducted a survey in Hungary and compare the responses to direct questions about deservingness to the results of a vignette-based survey experiment in which the deservingness criteria were translated to characteristics of hypothetical mothers. Our results show that in the absence of deservingness cues (direct questions), respondents relied on the attitude, reciprocity/control, identity (measured by traditional family values), and need criteria to the same extent. On the other hand, in the presence of specific deservingness cues (vignette experiment), people disregarded their family values and stereotypes, and the perceived need became the strongest predictor of single mothers’ deservingness. These results support the existence of the deservingness heuristic, however, compared to previous literature that emphasized the role of perceived control and reciprocity of recipients, in the case of single mothers, the deservingness heuristic seems to direct people’s attention to the perception of need.