This project seeks to extend and significantly expand the Comparative Welfare Entitlements Dataset (CWED) to create CWED II. Among other things, CWED II will: (1) expand the coverage of the existing CWED data to 24 countries over 40 years (1972-2011), including information on ten new, regionally diverse, and mostly middle income countries; (2) provide new information about programs that support working mothers, dual-income families, and that assist women in traditional roles of social reproduction, e.g., care-giving; (3) provide information (for all country-years) about the replacement rate values of public pensions 5 and 10 years after initial retirement; and (4) develop a user-friendly web interface that allows researchers and the general public to choose specific features of the dataset "a la carte," and to create simple visual displays of the information.

Data generated by the project will be used by the PI to evaluate several theoretical questions, including the impact of political partisanship on policy, long-term effects of incremental policy changes, the distributional implications of welfare reforms, and convergence between welfare states in wealthy and middle-income countries. Existing data sources only permit comparison of program spending, while program entitlements for individuals (and their distribution) are generally acknowledged by the research community as superior indicators of substantive social policy output and impact.

Several factors suggest that social insurance entitlements observed have changed markedly in the last decade. First, reforms to welfare state programs from the 1980s and 1990s were structured to be implemented over time. Whether or not such reforms were completed or reversed can only be completely observed after 2002. Furthermore, structural change and economic competition from countries with much less generous social policies have accelerated in the last decade, placing added pressure on developed countries to reform. Second, by adding ten middle-income countries, the project will produce new comparative observations from countries that confront very different structural and political contexts than the rich countries included in current analyses of program structures. No comparable dataset contains any information about welfare state institutional structures in non-advanced countries, let alone the breadth and historic depth of information that the PI proposes to collect.

The collection and dissemination of CWED II is a large social science data collection project, intended to benefit the social science research community. CWED II measures will be a large source of the kinds of measures that are generally preferred by comparative social policy researchers, but in very short supply. The dataset will enable researchers across social science disciplines to evaluate a variety of explanations about the social drivers and impacts of different features of welfare state policies during the last 40 years. Combined with already existing data on social program spending, such as the OECD Social Expenditure project, CWED II will result in an unprecedented depth of comparable information about social insurance policies, enabling scholars and policymakers to trace welfare states both in terms of their resource commitments and their institutional ones. CWED provides unique information about the structure of social insurance policies that has proven, and will continue, to be of interest to scholars in multiple social sciences. An important aim of the project is to provide the dataset to the research community in a timely manner. CWED II data will also be useful for educators, policymakers and the press as a tool for seeing, and comparing the diverse array of social protection arrangements in other developed democracies with those in the United States. In this way and others, CWED II will be a valuable tool to inform debates about the future of American social policies, from social security to parental leave.

Project Report

This project involved the collection, analysis and dissemination of historical and contemporary information about major social welfare programs in advanced industrial democracies. We focused primarily on four programs: unemployment insurance, sick pay insurance, public pensions and maternity benefits. These programs comprise the vast majority of social transfers in most modern democracies. We collected information on the conditions to qualify for benefits, the duration of benefits, the typical income replacement of benefits for several typical households, and the proportion of the labor force covered by insurance. Due to budget constraints and the difficulty of retreiving some information, we were not able to assemble all of the indicators originally anticipated. The project examined an historical period from the 1970s through 2010. The countries examined included most industrialized, OECD countries. During the project, we also established a collaboration with a research team in Germany that is working on a similar project, and who were able to contribute extensive information on EU countries, including former Communist countries that recently joined the EU. Existing comparative information has tended to focus primarily on program spending rather than the institutional rules determining the benefits of such programs. This project expanded a pre-existing project to include information about more countries, programs, and recent developments. The previous version of the dataset had been widely used in more than 100 published studies on the impact of social insurance policies on social well-being. Much of the information is available for download on line at Additional information will also be put on line for researchers and the general public to use as we finish collecting it. Our analysis has been published in several academic journals, and a book project is under way. Our results thus far suggest that there have been some considerable retrenchments in many welfare states in the last 10-15 years, particularly in some of the historically more generous countries. Most developed countries continue to have overall much more generous welfare states than the United States does, though in some respects US social programs are not as different from those or other countries as is sometimes imagined. In some areas, especially unemployment insurance, there is much more diversity within the United States than is generally appreciated.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
Standard Grant (Standard)
Application #
Program Officer
Brian D. Humes
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Connecticut
United States
Zip Code