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Crises as driver of policy accumulation: Regulatory change and ratcheting in German asylum policies between 1975 and 2019

Christoph Knill and Yves Steinebach

Regulation & Governance, 2022, vol. 16, issue 2, 603-617

Abstract: While there is broad scholarly agreement on the pattern of ever‐growing policy stocks in modern democracies, research on the drivers of policy accumulation is still in its infancy. This holds in particular for the role of crises and external shocks. While the relationship between crisis events and the change of individual policies is fairly uncontested, we lack systematic knowledge on the extent to which crises trigger policy accumulation. To address this research gap, we analyze if and to what extent crises drive the accumulation of sectoral policies over time. Focusing on the development of German asylum policy, we show that crises constitute major “regulatory ratchets”. While the policy stock remained rather constant in noncrisis times, crisis events led to the addition of multiple new policy elements, moving policy accumulation toward a new “plateau”. Crises hence not only increase the likelihood of substantial policy change but also for policy accumulation.

Date: 2022
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