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Social Welfare Expenditures in the United States and the Nordic Countries: 1900-2003

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  • Price V. Fishback

Abstract

The extent of social expenditures in the U.S. and the Nordic Countries is compared in the early 1900s and again in the early 2000s. The common view that America spends much less on social welfare than the Nordic countries does not survive closer inspection when we consider the differences in the structures of social expenditures. The standard comparison examines gross social expenditures. After adjustments for direct and indirect taxes paid, the net social expenditures in the Nordic countries are much closer to American levels. Inclusion of mandatory and private social expenditures raises the American share of GDP devoted to social expenditures to rank among the middle of the Nordic countries. Per capita net public social expenditures in the U.S. rank behind only Sweden. Add in the private spending, and per capita spending in the U.S. is higher than in all of the Nordic countries. Finally, I document the enormous diversity across time and place in public social expenditures in the U.S. in the early 1900s and circa 1990.

Suggested Citation

  • Price V. Fishback, 2010. "Social Welfare Expenditures in the United States and the Nordic Countries: 1900-2003," NBER Working Papers 15982, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15982
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Timothy M. Smeeding, 2005. "Public Policy, Economic Inequality, and Poverty: The United States in Comparative Perspective," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 86(s1), pages 955-983.
    2. Thomasson, Melissa A., 2002. "From Sickness to Health: The Twentieth-Century Development of U.S. Health Insurance," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 233-253, July.
    3. N/A, 2009. "On the Recession," Local Economy, London South Bank University, vol. 24(3), pages 253-253, May.
    4. Price V. Fishback & Shawn Everett Kantor, 2000. "A Prelude to the Welfare State: The Origins of Workers' Compensation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number fish00-1, January.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Donal Mac Géidigh & Friedrich Schneider & Matthias Blum, 2016. "Grey Matters: Charting the Development of the Shadow Economy," CESifo Working Paper Series 6234, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Marta Simões & Adelaide Duarte & João Sousa Andrade, 2014. "Assessing the Impact of the Welfare State on Economic Growth: A Survey of Recent Developments," GEMF Working Papers 2014-20, GEMF, Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra.
    3. Price Fishback & Samuel Allen & Jonathan Fox & Brendan Livingston, 2010. "A Patchwork Safety Net: A Survey Of Cliometric Studies Of Income Maintenance Programs In The United States In The First Half Of The Twentieth Century," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 24(5), pages 895-940, December.
    4. W. Robert Reed & Robert Mercer, 2013. "REPLICATION STUDY: Toya and Skidmore (Economics Letters, 2007," Working Papers in Economics 13/05, University of Canterbury, Department of Economics and Finance.
    5. Boettke, Peter, 2010. "Exchange, production, and Samaritan dilemmas," MPRA Paper 33199, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • N34 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: 1913-

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