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 4: When (Only) Money Matters: The Pros and Cons of Expenditure Analysis

Nico A. Siegel

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


Nico A. Siegel Expenditures are epiphenomenal to the theoretical substance of welfare states. (Esping-Andersen, 1990) Money is not all there is to policy, but there is precious little policy without it. (Klingemann, Hofferbert and Budge, 1994) The whole notion of a ‘race to the bottom’ is premised on dog-eat-dog cuts in expenditure and taxation. (Castles, 2004) INTRODUCTION1 This chapter focuses on a particular dependent variable problem in comparative welfare state research. It will assess the strengths and limits of comparative inquiries analysing welfare states mainly or even exclusively on the basis of social expenditure data. Although the major aim of this chapter is to discuss the specific problems of expenditure based analyses, it will also address more general methodological issues which are related to the dependent variable problem in macroquantitative comparative welfare state research. Over the last decade the comparative analysis of welfare reform has become a booming research field. More than a decade ago, Paul Pierson’s seminal work on the political logic of and limits to welfare state retrenchment sparked off a lively and ongoing debate about the so-called ‘new politics of the welfare state’ (Pierson, 1994). This discussion about the old and new politics of the welfare state is far from being settled (Pierson, 2001; Castles, 2004). Scholars from various disciplines and from distinct analytical angles have investigated welfare state change in advanced societies and presented strikingly divergent results concerning both the scope of change 43 44 Measuring and analysing ‘welfare efforts’ and the factors...

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