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Conference. “Federalism in Good Times and Bad: An International Conference on Decentralization and the Welfare State.”

Friday, March 20, 2015
12:00 AM
SPH I Community Room, 1415 Washington Heights

Registration required

Organizers: Scott L. Greer, University of Michigan; Alan Trench, University of Ulster; Heather A. Elliott, University of Michigan

Federalism and political decentralization have long been associated with territorial and personal inequality.  Scholars have used this relationship to develop causal arguments, and indeed the characteristics of such systems – empowering different sets of politicians, relying on different tax bases and sources of revenues, enabling different approaches to public policy and increasing the number of veto players in a system – seem designed to increase inequality and inhibit the growth of the sort of active government associated with strong, redistributive welfare states.  By contrast, the most extensive welfare states are found in unitary states with strong central governments. 

This conference, fruit of two years of collaborative research, brings to bear unprecedented new comparative data from twelve decentralized countries, produced by commissioned experts, presented at the level of their constituent units at state or regional level.  Using region-level data, broken down into significant social spending categories such as health, pensions, and education, the authors identify patterns of government expenditure and the distributional mechanics of different decentralized policy areas.  Where there had been broad-brush country-level comparisons, legal and historical analysis, and noncumulative quantitative analysis, we create and analyze a comparable database focused on social spending and the politics behind it.

It will present and analyze data on the core question of how the composition and generosity of welfare states varies across the territory of all the federal or constitutionally decentralized states of the OECD: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States, plus Brazil (a large, rapidly developing middle-income federal system).  It will show and help measure what has often just been assumed, namely, how different welfare states are in each state or regional government as well as in the country as a whole.  Authors will then use these data to ask how territory and welfare states interact and shape each other in light of economic challenges as well as demographic pressures and political change. It will be a coherent and innovative cross-national comparison that contributes to literatures on federalism, fiscal federalism, social policy and nationalism.

Sponsors: Social Sciences Annual Institute, Department of Health Management and Policy, Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies

Registration is required for attendance at this event. Please visit the registration page to sign up.