Skip to main content Accessibility help

Policy feedback in the local context: analysing fairness perceptions of public childcare fees in a German town

  • Marius R. Busemeyer (a1) and Achim Goerres (a2)

This article studies local processes of policy feedback by analysing citizens’ fairness perceptions of public childcare fees in a German town. Employing an experimental vignette study, we uncover complex feedback effects: first, citizens in the study regard a fee level as fair that is close to the actual fee level in the city, suggesting self-reinforcing feedback effects. Second, citizens strongly support a fee structure in which fees vary according to parental income. As this preferred fee structure differs from the local fee structure in the town itself, we interpret the citizens’ preference as evidence for self-undermining policy feedback. Finally, the actual characteristics of the respondents matter less than the fictitious characteristics of the parents in the vignettes, which points to the importance of interpretive rather than resource-based feedback effects. In concluding, we highlight the relevance of these findings for broader debates about policy feedback.

Corresponding author
*Corresponding author. Email:
Hide All

Cite this article: Busemeyer M.R., Goerres A. 2019. Policy feedback in the local context: analysing fairness perceptions of public childcare fees in a German town. Journal of Public Policy X: 1–22, doi:10.1017/S0143814X18000491

Hide All
Alesina, A Angeletos, GM (2005) Fairness and Redistribution. American Economic Review 95(4): 960980.
Andreß, HJ Heien, T (2001) Four Worlds of Welfare State Attitudes? A Comparison of Germany, Norway, and the United States. European Sociological Review 17(4): 337356.
Auspurg, K Hinz, T (2015) Multifactorial Experiments in Surveys: Conjoint Analysis, Choice Experiments, and Factorial Surveys. In Keuschnigg M and Wolbring T (eds.), Experimente in den Sozialwissenschaften. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 291315.
Bansak, K, Hainmueller, J Hangartner, D (2016) How Economic, Humanitarian, and Religious Concerns Shape European Attitudes Toward Asylum-Seekers. Science 354(6309): 217222.
Blekesaune, M Quadagno, J (2003) Public Attitudes Toward Welfare State Policies: A Comparative Analysis of 24 Countries. European Sociological Review 19(5): 415427.
Bolzendahl, C Olafsdottir, S (2008) Gender Group Interests or Gender Ideology? Understanding U.S. Support for Family Policy Within the Liberal Welfare Regime. Sociological Perspectives 51(2): 281304.
Busemeyer, MR (2013) Education Funding and Individual Preferences for Redistribution. European Sociological Review 29(4): 707719.
Busemeyer, MR, Goerres, A Weschle, S (2009) Attitudes Towards Redistributive Spending in an Era of Demographic Ageing: The Rival Pressures from Age and Income in 14 OECD Countries. Journal of European Social Policy 19(3): 195212.
Campbell, AL (2012) Policy Makes Mass Politics. Annual Review of Political Science 15, 333351.
Chung, H Meuleman, B (2017) European Parents’ Attitudes Towards Public Childcare Provision: The Role of Current Provisions, Interests and Ideologies. European Societies 19(1): 4968.
City of Konstanz (2011) Satzung der Stadt Konstanz über die Erhebung von Gebühren für den Besuch der städtischen Tageseinrichtungen für Kinder. Public decree by the mayor, 01-10-2011.
City of Konstanz (2015) Beschlussvorlage für den Stadtrat: Neugestaltung der Elternbeiträge für Kindertageseinrichtungen. Public document prepared for hearing in local council and the youth-support committee, 10-03-2015.
City of Konstanz (2016) Konstanz in Zahlen. Statistical Report of the City.
Cusack, T, Iversen, T Rehm, P (2006) Risks at Work: The Demand and Supply Sides of Government Redistribution. Oxford Review of Economic Policy 22(3): 365389.
De La O, AL Rodden, JA (2008) Does Religion Distract the Poor? Income and Issue Voting Around the World. Comparative Political Studies 41(4–5): 437476.
Ellingsaeter, AL, Kitterod, RH Lyngstad, J (2017) Universalising Childcare, Changing Mothers’ Attitudes: Policy Feedback in Norway. Journal of Social Policy 46(1): 149173.
Esping-Andersen, G (2002) Why We Need a New Welfare State. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.
Fleckenstein, T, Saunders, AM Seeleib-Kaiser, M (2011) The Dual Transformation of Social Protection and Human Capital: Comparing Britain and Germany. Comparative Political Studies 44(12): 16221650.
Gallego, A Marx, P (2017) Multi-Dimensional Preferences for Labor Market Reform: A Conjoint Experiment. Journal of European Public Policy 24(7): 10271047.
Garritzmann, JL (2015) Attitudes Towards Student Support: How Positive Feedback Effects Prevent Change in the Four World of Student Finance. Journal of European Social Policy 25(2): 139158.
Garritzmann, JL (2016) The Political Economy of Higher Education Finance: The Politics of Tuition Fees and Subsidies in OECD Countries, 1945-2015. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Gingrich, JR (2014) Structuring the Vote: Welfare Institutions and Value-Based Vote Choices. In Kumlin S and Stadelmann-Steffen I (eds.), How Welfare States Shape the Democratic Public: Policy Feedback, Participation, Voting, and Attitudes. Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar, 93112.
Gingrich, JR Ansell, BW (2012) Preferences in Context: Micro Preferences, Macro Contexts, and the Demand for Social Policy. Comparative Political Studies 45(12): 16241654.
Goerres, A Tepe, M (2010) Age-Based Self-Interest, Intergenerational Solidarity and the Welfare State: A Comparative Analysis of Older People’s Attitudes Towards Public Childcare in 12 OECD Countries. European Journal of Political Research 49(6): 818851.
Goerres, A Tepe, M (2012a) Doing it for the Kids? The Determinants of Attitudes Towards Public Childcare in Unified Germany. Journal of Social Policy 41(2): 349372.
Goerres, A Tepe, M (2012b) The Family and the Welfare State: The Impact of Public Provision for Families on Young People’s Demand for Public Childcare Across 21 Nations. In Goerres A and Vanhuysse P (eds.), Ageing Populations in Post-Industrial Democracies: Comparative Studies of Policies and Politics. London, New York: Routledge, 178205.
Goerres, A Tepe, M (2013) Für die Kleinen ist uns nichts zu teuer? Kindergartengebühren und ihre Determinanten in Deutschlands 95 bevölkerungsreichsten Städten zwischen 2007 und 2010. dms - der moderne staat 6(1): 169190.
Guo, J Gilbert, N (2014) Public Attitudes Toward Government Responsibility for Child Care: The Impact of Individual Characteristics and Welfare Regimes. Children and Youth Services Review 44, 8289.
Hacker, JS, Rehm, P Schlesinger, M (2013) The Insecure American: Economic Experiences, Financial Worries, and Policy Attitudes. Perspectives on Politics 11(1): 2349.
Hainmueller, J, Hangartner, D Yamamoto, T (2015) Validating Vignette and Conjoint Survey Experiments Against Real-World Behavior. PNAS 112(8): 23952400.
Hainmueller, J Hopkins, DJ (2015) The Hidden American Immigration Consensus: A Conjoint Analysis of Attitudes Towards Immigrants. American Journal of Political Science 59(3): 529548.
Hainmueller, J, Hopkins, DJ Yamamoto, T (2014) Causal Inference in Conjoint Analysis: Understanding Multidimensional Choices Via Stated Preference Experiments. Political Analysis 22, 130.
Heckman, JJ (2006) Skill Formation and the Economics of Investing in Disadvantaged Children. Science 312, 19001902.
Hedegaard, TF Larsen, CA (2014) How Proximate and Visible Policies Shape Self-interest, Satisfaction, and Spending Support: The Case of Public Service Provision. In Kumlin S and Stadelmann-Steffen I (eds.), How Welfare States Shape the Democratic Public: Policy Feedback, Participation, Voting, and Attitudes. Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar, 269288.
Henderson, TL, Monroe, PA, Garand, JC Burts, DC (1995) Explaining Public Opinion Toward Government Spending on Childcare. Family Relations 44(1): 3745.
Iversen, T Soskice, D (2001) An Asset Theory of Social Policy Preferences. American Political Science Review 95(4): 875893.
Jacobs, AM Weaver, RK (2015) When Policies Undo Themselves: Self-Undermining Feedback as a Source of Policy Change. Governance 28(4): 441457.
Jaeger, MM (2006) Welfare Regimes and Attitudes Towards Redistribution: The Regime Hypothesis Revisited. European Sociological Review 22(2): 157170.
Jaeger, MM (2009) United but Divided: Welfare Regimes and the Level and Variance in Public Support for Redistribution. European Sociological Review 25(6): 723737.
Jordan, J (2013) Policy Feedback and Support for the Welfare State. Journal of European Social Policy 23(2): 134148.
Kangas, O (1997) Self-Interest and the Common Good: The Impact of Norms, Selfishness and Context in Social Policy Opinions. Journal of Socio-Economics 26(5): 475494.
Kitschelt, H Rehm, P (2014) Occupations as a Site of Political Preference Formation. Comparative Political Studies 47(12): 16761706.
Kumlin, S (2014) Policy Feedback in Political Context: Unemployment Benefits, Election Campaigns, and Democratic Satisfaction. In Kumlin S and Stadelmann-Steffen I (eds.), How Welfare States Shape the Democratic Public: Policy Feedback, Participation, Voting, and Attitudes. Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar, 181197.
Kumlin, S Stadelmann-Steffen, I (2014) Citizens, Policy Feedback, and European Welfare States. In Kumlin S and Stadelmann-Steffen I (eds.), How Welfare States Shape the Democratic Public: Policy Feedback, Participation, Voting, and Attitudes. Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar, 316.
Margalit, Y (2013) Explaining Social Policy Preferences: Evidence from the Great Recession. American Political Science Review 107(1): 80103.
Meltzer, AH Richard, SF (1981) A Rational Theory of the Size of Government. Journal of Political Economy 89(5): 914927.
Mettler, S Soss, J (2004) The Consequences of Public Policy for Democratic Citizenship: Bridging Policy Studies and Mass Politics. Perspectives on Politics 2(1): 5573.
Meuleman, B Chung, H (2012) Who should Care for the Children? Support for Government Intervention in Childcare. In Ervasti H, Goul Andersen J, Fridberg T and Ringdal K (eds.), The Future of the Welfare State: Social Policy Attitudes and Social Capital in Europe. Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar, 107131.
Pierson, P (1993) When Effect Becomes Cause: Policy Feedback and Political Change. World Politics 45(4): 595628.
Rehm, P (2009) Risk and Redistribution: An Individual-Level Analysis. Comparative Political Studies 42(7): 855881.
Rehm, P, Hacker, JS Schlesinger, M (2012) Insecure Alliances: Risk, Inequality, and Support for the Welfare State. American Political Science Review 106(2): 386406.
Roosma, F, Van Oorschot, W Gelissen, J (2014) The Preferred Role and Perceived Performance of the Welfare State: European Welfare Attitudes from a Multidimensional Perspective. Social Science Research 44, 200210.
Scheve, K Stasavage, D (2006) Religion and Preferences for Social Insurance. Quarterly Journal of Political Science 1, 255286.
Schwander, H, Häusermann, S Kurer, T (2015) High-Skilled Outsiders? Labor Market Vulnerability, Education and Welfare State Preferences. Socio-Economic Review 13(2): 235258.
Soroka, SN Wlezien, C (2010) Degrees of Democracy: Politics, Public Opinion, and Policy. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.
Soss, J Schram, SF (2007) A Public Transformed? Welfare Reform as Policy Feedback. American Political Science Review 101(1): 111127.
Streeck, W Thelen, K (2005) Introduction: Institutional Change in Advanced Political Economies. In Streeck W and Thelen K (eds.), Beyond Continuity: Institutional Change in Advanced Political Economies. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 139.
Südkurier (2014, 16 August). Das müssen Eltern künftig zahlen: Stadt sucht neues Modell für Kita-Gebühren, p. 21.
Svallfors, S (1997) Worlds of Welfare and Attitudes to Redistribution: A Comparison of Eight Western Nations. European Sociological Review 13(3): 283304.
Svallfors, S (2004) Class, Attitudes and the Welfare State: Sweden in Comparative Perspective. Social Policy & Administration 38(2): 119138.
Svallfors, S (2010) Policy Feedback, Generational Replacement, and Attitudes to State Intervention: Eastern and Western Germany, 1990-2006. European Political Science Review 2(1): 119135.
Svallfors, S (2012) Welfare States and Welfare Attitudes. In Svallfors S (ed.), Contested Welfare States: Welfare Attitudes in Europe and Beyond. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 124.
Van Lancker, W (2013) Putting the Child-Centred Investment Strategy to the Test: Evidence for the EU27. European Journal of Social Security 15(1): 427.
Weaver, RK (2010) Paths and Forks or Chutes and Ladders? Negative Feedbacks and Policy Regime Change. Journal of Public Policy 30(2): 137162.
Zhu, L Lipsmeyer, CS (2015) Policy Feedback and Economic Risk: The Influence of Privatization on Social Policy Preferences. Journal of European Public Policy 22(10): 14891511.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Public Policy
  • ISSN: 0143-814X
  • EISSN: 1469-7815
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-public-policy
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Busemeyer and Goerres Dataset

Supplementary materials

Busemeyer and Goerres supplementary material
Online Appendix

 Word (310 KB)
310 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed