The Patterning of Social Policy Responsiveness

in Why Welfare States Persist

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2007 | ISBN: 9780226075839
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226075952 | DOI:
The Patterning of Social Policy Responsiveness

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In 2001, welfare state spending in the Scandinavian social democracies was fifty-nine percent greater than in liberal democracies, and a stunning eighty percent greater than in the United States. These are enormous differences. Do mass policy preferences help to account for the wide variation among contemporary welfare states? This chapter brings this explanation to bear on the large differences between welfare state regimes. It also considers the contribution of mass policy preferences to understanding finer-grained differences between specific countries, taking into account established factors as well. Using a new dataset from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the International Social Survey Program (ISSP), it suggests the existence of a strong linkage between opinion and social policy, where greater preferences are associated with higher levels of welfare state generosity. The chapter also demonstrates that mass opinion is consistently among the largest sources of cross-national patterning in the overall output of welfare states.

Keywords: welfare state; social democracies; liberal democracies; United States; mass policy; output; mass opinion; social policy; spending

Chapter.  2953 words. 

Subjects: Political Economy

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