Partisan politics and welfare state entitlements in eighteen advanced industrial democracies, 1975--1999

Date of Completion

January 2003


Political Science, General|Sociology, Public and Social Welfare




This dissertation examines, from a comparative perspective, the relationship between partisan politics and welfare state entitlements in eighteen advanced industrial democracies during the last quarter of the twentieth century. At a time when most welfare states have moved beyond their so-called “golden ages,” there is no shortage of studies of welfare state growth and retrenchment, but while these studies have for the most part focused on aggregate social policy indicators such as government expenditures and levels of public employment, this dissertation concentrates instead on the nature and generosity of benefits received by individuals and families. Employing case studies and the new cross-national and time-series “Comparative Welfare State Entitlements Data Set, 1960–2000,” I examine trends in the generosity of unemployment, sickness and pension benefits, and estimate the effects of political partisanship on changes in the nature of unemployment and sickness insurance programs in the period since 1975. My findings challenge two broad claims made in recent comparative studies of the welfare state: first, I find that welfare states have been less resilient in the face of retrenchment pressures than recent studies suggest, and second, I find that the partisan control of governments and even the ministerial portfolios pertaining to social welfare issues continues to matter when explaining differences in the generosity of programmatic entitlements both across countries and over time. ^