The ‘Dependent Variable Problem’ in Comparative Analysis
Edited by Jochen Clasen and Nico A. Siegel
Chapter 5: Social Expenditure Under Scrutiny: The Problems of Using Aggregate Spending Data for Assessing Welfare State Dynamics
Johan De Deken and Bernhard Kittel INTRODUCTION Since the late 1980s the governments of most OECD countries have been concerned with reorganizing their welfare states in general, and their retirement systems in particular. Through such reorganization they seek to prepare for – or hope to ward oﬀ – the ﬁnancial crisis of welfare arrangements that has been predicted for the coming decennia. Scholarly contributions have focused on the directions reforms take and the conditions under which they take place (Bonoli et al., 2000; Pierson, 2001). More speciﬁcally, cross-national research has put much eﬀort into exploring the extent to which the ideological position of governments inﬂuences the size and direction of welfare state reform (e.g. Pampel and Williamson, 1985; Huber and Stephens, 2001; Kittel and Obinger, 2003; Castles, 2004; Galasso and Profeta, 2004). In order to measure reform and change, these scholars have largely relied on the Social Expenditure Database (SOCX) of the OECD, which is considered to be the most reliable source for comparable data on social expenditure. While it is granted that, as has been repeatedly warned, expenditure data contain little information about the substantive content of welfare eﬀorts, they are generally regarded as a valid indicator of overall welfare eﬀort. The results of these research eﬀorts into the political determinants of social expenditure cannot have been more ambiguous. Kittel and Obinger have summarized a variety of studies revealing contradictory coeﬃcient estimates, depending on the period and countries included, the variables included, and the...
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