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 6: Social Rights, Structural Needs and Social Expenditure: A Comparative Study of 18 OECD Countries 1960–2000

Olli Kangas and Joakim Palme


Olli Kangas and Joakim Palme INTRODUCTION What has driven the expansion of welfare state expenditures? Why do some countries spend more on social security than others? These basic questions have occupied social scientists’ thoughts for decades. Over time researchers have come to shift the focus both geographically and in terms of level of aggregation. Cutright (1965) and Wilensky (1975) started out by analysing cross-sectional variation in social expenditure among industrial as well as developing countries. The focus was then shifted to the variation in expenditure among the most advanced industrial nations, and the variation over time within nations was also empirically analysed (e.g. O’Connor and Brym, 1988; Pampel and Williamson, 1989; Hicks and Swank, 1992; Huber and Stephens et al., 1993; Hicks and Misra, 1993; Huber and Stephens, 2001; Castles, 2004). Another shift occured when researchers started to examine the development in specific programmes such as pensions (Pampel and Williamson, 1985; Palme, 1990; Huber and Stephens, 1993), sickness benefits (Kangas, 1991), family benefits (Wennemo, 1994; Ferrarini, 2006), unemployment insurance (Carroll, 1999) and social assistance (Nelson, 2003; Kuivalainen, 2004). Yet comparative research in this area has still remained surprisingly inconclusive. The importance of economic development and party politics has, for example, been given very different weights as an explanatory factor. The same applies to the more current ‘welfare state retrenchment’ or the ‘new politics’ of the welfare state literature, where results are even contradictory (see Pierson, 1994; Green-Pedersen, 2000; Korpi and Palme, 2003; Castles, 2004; Siegel, 2005)...

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