The ‘Dependent Variable Problem’ in Comparative Analysis
Edited by Jochen Clasen and Nico A. Siegel
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 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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