The ‘Dependent Variable Problem’ in Comparative Analysis
Edited by Jochen Clasen and Nico A. Siegel
Chapter 7: Welfare State Generosity Across Space and Time
Lyle Scruggs INTRODUCTION Comparative analyses of welfare state reforms have relied overwhelmingly on public spending data as the indicator of welfare state commitment and change. However, scholars have long emphasized the problems with spending outputs and also stressed the importance of programmatic elements of welfare state policies. One particular focus has been on national commitment to social citizenship rights. This general line of research has oﬀered few alternative measures that are compatible with comparative analysis across many countries and long periods of time. Those that do exist, such as the Social Citizenship Indicators project at the Swedish Institute of Social Research, are not generally available to scholars (see Kangas and Palme, Chapter 6, this volume). This has led to two reinforcing cleavages in welfare state research: largen comparisons of many countries testing general theories but relying on spending data as proxies of welfare state generosity (or eﬀort), and smalln comparisons with sui generis data sets that propose and demonstrate, but seldom really test, hypotheses. Both sides of the cleavage are subject to speciﬁc scientiﬁc limitations and advantages. For its part, the ‘large-n camp’ focuses on honing a well developed (if not uniform) set of empirical data to test analytical models and theories, but may be consistently misspecifying what the welfare state is. The more qualitative camp, by contrast, can often claim a more nuanced set of concepts, but lacks quantiﬁable leverage for scientiﬁc veriﬁcation, or, in the case of single country studies, any...
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