Investigating Welfare State Change
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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.
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Chapter 1: Comparative Welfare State Analysis and the ‘Dependent Variable Problem’

Jochen Clasen and Nico A. Siegel


Jochen Clasen and Nico A. Siegel INTRODUCTION Reforms of public pension schemes, health care systems and labour market programmes have been amongst the most salient political issues for some years. The reasons for governments to engage in welfare reform vary across countries, but generally include budgetary pressures and projected increases in spending on health care, social services and public pension systems. Economic internationalization and associated shifts in production and employment patterns have jointly contributed to new labour market risks, problems of long-term unemployment or labour market inactivity. Changing household formations as well as political forces, either of a domestic or a supranational nature (e.g., Europeanization), put additional pressures on policy makers to adapt existing forms of welfare state provision, and reinforce perceptions of welfare reform as a political topic which is likely to remain high on the public policy agenda for some time to come. Moreover, in terms of the political discourse, traditional left concepts favouring big welfare statism have become rather scarce. Instead of the public provision of social protection perceived as market restricting and correcting, current debates and new policies appear to present a shift towards market enabling principles. Within social science the notion of changing welfare states as a topic for comparative research is not new. In fact, it was the emergence and subsequent expansion of social protection until the 1970s which stimulated a large number of investigations into the causes for welfare state growth (e.g. Flora, 1987a) as well as processes of cross-national variation (e.g. Esping-Andersen,...

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