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What Welfare States Do: A Disaggregated Expenditure Approach1



This article suggests that an alternative to a social rights of citizenship approach to comparing welfare states is to use disaggregated programme expenditure data to identify the diverse spending priorities of different types of welfare state. An initial descriptive analysis shows that four major categories of social spending (cash spending on older people and those of working age; service spending on health and for other purposes) are almost entirely unrelated to one another and that different welfare state regimes or families of nations exhibit quite different patterns of spending. The article proceeds to demonstrate that both the determinants and the outcomes of these different categories of spending also differ quite radically. In policy terms, most importantly, the article shows that cross-national differences in poverty and inequality among advanced nations are to a very large degree a function of the extent of cash spending on programmes catering to the welfare needs of those of working age.



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