IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The welfare state over the very long run


  • Pierson, Paul


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Pierson, Paul, 2011. "The welfare state over the very long run," Working papers of the ZeS 02/2011, University of Bremen, Centre for Social Policy Research (ZeS).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:zeswps:022011

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:cup:apsrev:v:98:y:2004:i:02:p:243-260_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:cup:apsrev:v:100:y:2006:i:02:p:165-181_06 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Weaver, Kent, 2010. "Paths and Forks or Chutes and Ladders?: Negative Feedbacks and Policy Regime Change," Journal of Public Policy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 30(02), pages 137-162, August.
    4. repec:cup:apsrev:v:97:y:2003:i:03:p:425-446_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:zbw:zeswps:022011. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (ZBW - German National Library of Economics). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.