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 9: Exploring Diversity: Measuring Welfare State Change with Fuzzy-Set Methodology

Jon Kvist


Jon Kvist1 INTRODUCTION Is the glass half-empty? Is it more empty than full? Such questions are often linked to judgements which concern qualitative states and changes in degree and kind. Abounding in comparative studies, such judgements bring forward issues of how best to conceptualize and measure. In comparative studies of the welfare state they prompt reflections on what constitutes the welfare state (see Bonoli, Chapter 3 in this volume), how to operationalize it and how to measure change over time and space. Comparative welfare state research has made significant progress in the theoretical understanding of the welfare state itself, not least due to a dialogue between qualitatively and quantitatively oriented studies (Amenta, 2003). Since 1990, when Gøsta Esping-Andersen published Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism, a common starting point has been the distinction between different types of welfare state regime: identifying a liberal, conservative and a social-democratic welfare state regime. In short, diversity – the co-existence of similarities and differences – characterizes different welfare states. Comparative research however has made much less progress in the measurement of welfare state and welfare state change (see Clasen and Siegel, Chapter 1 of this volume). A lack of consensus about how to measure either is the main reason why scholars disagree on the direction and magnitude of recent change in social policy, i.e. whether reforms amount to fundamental or marginal change (Clayton and Pontusson, 1998 with Pierson, 1996; or Gilbert, 2002 with Kvist, 1999). Of course, neglecting issues of measurement...

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