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The welfare state over the very long run

Paul Pierson

No 02/2011, Working papers of the ZeS from University of Bremen, Centre for Social Policy Research (ZeS)

Abstract: New data makes it possible to measure the evolution of social program generosity over the roughly three decades since the affluent democracies entered the era of austerity. Compared with plausible expectations derived from power resource theory, as well as prior historical experience, these data reveal a striking level of stability in benefits. This finding has important implications for the study of the welfare state; rather than focusing exclusively on accounting for variation in program outcomes over time and across countries, we need to consider why there is often relatively little variation to explain. At the same time, this relative stability at the level of programs co-exists with dramatic change in social context as well dramatic shifts in other aspects of the post-war social contract. The ramifications of programmatic stability can only be understood by situating it within these broader patterns of social transformation.

Date: 2011
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