The ‘Dependent Variable Problem’ in Comparative Analysis
Edited by Jochen Clasen and Nico A. Siegel
Chapter 10: Convergence in European Welfare State Analysis: Convergence of What?
Julia S. O’Connor INTRODUCTION Our understanding of institutional change and convergence is generally more intuitive than systematic. We think we know what we mean by convergence but in fact several alternative understandings are possible. Institutions and policies could become more alike, for instance, by becoming more like those already in existence in one country, or they could all change to some new conﬁguration. (Kitschelt et al., 1999: 438) . . . policy convergence can be deﬁned as any increase in the similarity between one or more of the characteristics of a certain policy (e.g. policy objectives, policy instruments, policy settings) across a given set of political jurisdictions over a given period of time. (Knill, 2005: 768) [Convergence is] the tendency of societies to grow more alike, to develop similarities in structures, processes and performances. (Kerr, 1983: 3) These quotations point to two levels at which convergence is considered: institutional convergence and policy convergence. Studies of convergence often concentrate on the change in ‘performances,’ to use Kerr’s terminology, as reﬂected in structural and/or social indicators such as GDP per capita, social expenditure as a percentage of GDP or rates of unemployment but the basis on which convergence, or its absence, is asserted is often not suﬃciently speciﬁed. This includes a failure to identify clearly the dependent variable, the scope of convergence and the relevant time period over which it is measured. With a view to assessing its usefulness in comparative welfare state analysis and the apparently contradictory claims...
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