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 8: Levels and Levers of Conditionality: Measuring Change Within Welfare States

Jochen Clasen and Daniel Clegg


Jochen Clasen and Daniel Clegg INTRODUCTION Bold claims are often made about the current development of welfare states, both by critical theorists of social policies and by the politicians that are reforming them. But characterizing the nature and magnitude of the changes that welfare states have undergone in recent decades seems to pose major problems for empirical – and particularly comparative empirical – analysis. The lively debate concerning the range of factors that may result in (more or less) change in social protection arrangements – including most importantly structural socioeconomic forces, changing power resources, new ideas, party competition, institutions, policy legacies and path dependence (for overviews, see van Kersbergen, 1995; Amenta, 2003) – is complicated by the fact that analysts struggle to agree on what, exactly, is the real character and extent of change to be explained. Controversies and contradictory readings abound in the comparative social policy literature. Have we, as some maintain, witnessed a ‘paradigm shift’ in the techniques and strategies for managing social risks, or merely a series of adjustments at the margins? And if recent reforms are leading to the emergence of a distinctively new ‘type’ or ‘form’ of social policy, is this equally true in all developed welfare states, or only (to date) in some? While in social sciences there is always scope for differing interpretations, convincingly and consistently answering these kinds of questions arguably turns first and foremost on the identification of the most appropriate data for examination. Differently put, the key challenge for assessing the...

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