Who gets what from government is partly determined by who applies for government programs. Despite the importance of the claiming process, political scientists have said little about the factors that influence citizen demands on government programs. We explore the hypothesis that state environments systematically shape aggregate rates of welfare demand making by testing a model of welfare claiming in the Social Security Disability Insurance and the Supplemental Security Income programs. Our findings show that in addition to economic need for benefits, the density of civil society organizations, the political ideology of state officials, and the generosity of state-run public assistance programs shape the amount and direction of citizen demands on the welfare system. Although commonalities exist in which variables explain welfare claiming, relationships vary in interesting ways across programs and stages of the claiming process, highlighting the need for a theoretical model of claiming behavior that takes into account such differences.
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