Get access

Political Partisanship and Welfare State Reform in Advanced Industrial Societies


  • James P. Allan,

  • Lyle Scruggs

  • Much of the data used in this article are drawn from “A Comparative Welfare State Entitlements Data Set, 1960–2000,” currently under construction. The National Science Foundation (SES-0095367) supports the effort. We would like to thank John Stephens, Duane Swank, Hans Keman, and three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on earlier versions of the article. Replication data are available from the authors.

James P. Allan is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Wittenberg University, PO Box 720, Springfield, OH 45501-0720 ( Lyle Scruggs is Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Connecticut, 341 Mansfield Road, Storrs, CT 06269-1024 (


In this article we evaluate two claims made in recent studies of the welfare states of advanced industrial societies: first, that welfare states have remained quite resilient in the face of demands for retrenchment; and second, that partisan politics have ceased to play a decisive role in their evolution. Addressing the first claim, we present analysis from a new data set on unemployment insurance and sickness benefit replacement rates for 18 countries for the years 1975–99. We find considerably more evidence of welfare retrenchment during the last two decades than do recent cross-national studies. Second, we examine the “end of partisanship” claim by estimating the effects of government partisanship on changes in income replacement rates in sickness and unemployment programs. Our results suggest that, contrary to claims that partisanship has little impact on welfare state commitments, traditional partisanship continues to have a considerable effect on welfare state entitlements in the era of retrenchment.

Get access to the full text of this article