Differences in Degree or Kind? Comparing Worlds of Welfare in Northern and Southern Countries
Guest seminar organized by The Political Economy Research Group (PERG)
Since Esping-Andersen’s classic ‘The three worlds of welfare capitalism’ it has become a truism of welfare state research that welfare states do not vary linearly along a single dimension, but have to be a) conceptualized as multi-dimensional phenomena and b) cluster into types, which consist of ideal typical and/or empirical groups around common combinations of characteristics. However, when moving beyond the 18 original countries of EA’s analysis the situation is much less clear. While additional worlds have been identified, these often are not conceptualized along the same dimensions as the original three worlds and are rarely empirically compared with them. Others have expanded on the ‘three worlds’ framework trying to incorporate the Global South. Yet while conceptually expanding the framework, these analyses often neglect empirically comparing the global South to the North.
This paper tackles these omissions of the existing literature by explicitly comparing northern and southern countries within a single framework. It poses the question whether the central insight of welfare state research, namely that there are not just gradual differences between welfare states, but different types with qualitative differences, expands beyond the classic welfare states. Based on newly collected data on social rights and social stratification we employ cluster analysis and conduct t-tests, to assess whether worlds of welfare appear or vanish when looking beyond the 18 developed democracies welfare state research has spend so much ink on.
Tobias Böger and Kerem Öktem are research fellows in the Sociology department at the University of Bielefeld.