Why Do Authoritarian Regimes Provide Welfare Program?

Comparative Politics
Authoritarian Regimes
Welfare Provision
Information Problem
Ruling Coalition

Park, Sanghoon. 2024. “Why Do Authoritarian Regimes Provide Welfare?”


Political Science, Univeristy of South Carolina University


May 2024


Why do authoritarian regimes provide welfare for their citizens? This paper answers this question by examining the information problems faced by autocrats: how well they can identify public preferences and the key groups they must co-opt to stay in power. Despite democracies providing welfare by public demand, authoritarian leaders use welfare provision strategically to maintain their ruling coalitions. I argue that the extent of welfare provision depends on which groups an autocrat relies on for support and their ability to gather information about the population. This is because better information allows them to target benefits more effectively. I examine data on authoritarian regimes and their welfare provisions from 1966-2011. I find that massbased coalitions and strong mass party organizations lead to more universal welfare. Also, the effect of mass-based coalition diminishes when autocrats effectively manage information problems through a well-institutionalized mass party. Strong mass party organizations play an important role in resolving information problems, enabling more efficient targeting, and reducing reliance on universal welfare provisions.