Table of Contents

Investigating Welfare State Change

Investigating Welfare State Change

The ‘Dependent Variable Problem’ in Comparative Analysis

Edited by Jochen Clasen and Nico A. Siegel

With contributions from leading international scholars, this important book presents a comprehensive examination of conventional indicators (such as social spending), available alternatives (including social rights and conditionality), as well as principal concepts of how to capture change (for example convergence and de-familization). By providing an in-depth discussion of the most salient aspects of the ‘dependent variable problem’, the editors aim to enable a more cumulative build-up of empirical evidence and contribute to constructive theoretical debates about the causes of welfare state change. The volume also offers valuable suggestions as to how the problem might be tackled within empirical cross-national analyses of modern welfare states.

Chapter 2: More than Data Questions and Methodological Issues: Theoretical Conceptualization and the Dependent Variable ‘Problem’ in the Study of Welfare Reform

Christoffer Green-Pedersen

Subjects: social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, welfare states


Christoffer Green-Pedersen INTRODUCTION1 Studies of welfare state reform2 have been booming in recent years. Today the literature in the area offers a large number of theoretical arguments on what, for instance, causes cross-national variation in the scope or degree of welfare reforms implemented in OECD countries. In the literature claims are made about the importance of party politics in different versions (Ross, 2000a; Kitschelt, 2001; Green-Pedersen, 2002; Korpi and Palme, 2003; Allan and Scruggs, 2004), the role of political institutions (Bonoli, 2000; Swank, 2002a), political discourse (Cox, 2001; Schmidt, 2002) and economic pressures (Castles, 2001). However, the literature actually offers very few established facts as to what factors or what combination of factors matter for cross-national variation in welfare state reform. One clear example is the continuation of the classical ‘does politics matter?’ debate. Some studies (Korpi and Palme, 2003; Allan and Scruggs, 2004) claim that politics still matters, or more precisely that social democratic parties in government matter, implementing less welfare state reform, especially retrenchment reforms, than centre-right governments. Other studies (Ross, 2000a; Green-Pedersen, 2002) argue the opposite, i.e. that social democratic governments introduce more rather than less retrenchment than rightwing governments, thereby reversing the classic ‘politics matters’ claim. Yet other studies (Castles, 2001; Huber and Stephens, 2001; Siegel, 2001; Kittel and Obinger, 2003) imply that politics does not matter any longer. In one way, the continuing disagreement is helpful since it keeps the scientific debate alive, but in another way it is...

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