The Journal of Politics


Welfare versus Subsidies: Governmental Spending Decisions in an Era of Globalization

Stephanie J. Rickard

London School of Economics


To what extent does globalization reduce the autonomy of national governments over spending decisions? Recent theories suggest that international trade puts pressure on governments to cut spending. Empirical studies find evidence of this with respect to social welfare spending in developing countries. However, existing studies leave open the possibility that trade has varied effects on different types of spending programs. Governments may cut spending on some programs, such as social welfare, in order to fund greater spending on other budget items. Using data on central government spending in 44 developing countries, trade is found to decrease spending on social welfare programs but increase spending on subsidies. The implication is that governments in developing countries have the capacity to offset the costs of globalization; however, they do so via subsidies rather than social welfare programs.


  Stephanie J. Rickard is a Lecturer at the London School of Economics, London, WC2A 2AE, U.K.