Soc 225: Comparative Political Economy


University of California, San Diego
Winter 2017-18
SSB 101, M 9:00-11:50

Lane Kenworthy
Office hours: M 12-1, Tu 10-11, SSB 472

What institutions and policies are conducive to liberty, economic security, opportunity, a vibrant economy, shared prosperity, inclusion, health, happiness, and other desirable features of a modern society? To what extent are there tradeoffs? We’ll examine the history and performance of key policies and institutions in the United States and other rich democratic nations.

Our focus will be on the “Nordic model.” What does it consist of? How well does it work? Is its success generalizable beyond Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden?


January 8

  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2017. Social Democratic Capitalism. Book draft. Chapters 1-2.
  • Optional: The Economist. 1995. “Heading South: A Survey of the Nordic Countries.”
  • Optional: Schubert, Carlos Buhigas, Hans Martens, et al. 2005. “The Nordic Model: A Recipe for European Success?” Working Paper 20. European Policy Centre.
  • Optional: Andersen, Torben M., Bengt Holmström, Seppo Honkapohja, Sixten Korkman, Hans Tson Söderström, Juhana Vartiainen. 2007. The Nordic Model: Embracing Globalization and Sharing Risks. Research Institute of the Finnish Economy.
  • Optional: The Economist. 2013. “Northern Lights: Special Report on the Nordic Countries.”
  • Optional: Dolvik, Jon Erik. 2014. “The Social Foundations of the Nordic Models: A Review of the Labour and Welfare Regime’s Evolution and Distinctions.” NordMod2030: Summaries of Project Reports. Fafo.
  • Optional: SAMAK. 2016. “The Nordic Model for Dummies.”

January 15
No class: Martin Luther King Jr Day

January 22
Expansive and generous public insurance

  • Partanen, Anu. 2016. The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life. HarperCollins. Chapters 1-3, 5, 9. LINK
  • Christoffersen, Henrik, Michelle Beyeler, Reiner Eichenberger, Peter Nannestad, and Martin Paldam. 2014. The Good Society: A Comparative Study of Denmark and Switzerland. Springer. Pp. 1-8, 189-203.
  • Nelson, Kenneth. 2012. “Counteracting Material Deprivation: The Role of Social Assistance in Europe.” Journal of European Social Policy 22: 148-163.
  • Anderson, Christopher J. and Jason D. Hecht. 2015. “Happiness and the Welfare State: Decommodification and the Political Economy of Subjective Well-Being.” In The Politics of Advanced Capitalism, edited by Pablo Beramendi et al. Cambridge University Press. LINK
  • Optional: Esping-Andersen, Gøsta. 1990. The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Princeton University Press.
  • Optional: Goodin, Robert E., Bruce Headey, Ruud Muffels, and Henk-Jan Dirven. 1999. The Real Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Cambridge University Press.
  • Optional: Moller, Stephanie, David Bradley, Evelyne Huber, Francois Nielsen, and John D. Stephens. 2003. “Determinants of Relative Poverty in Advanced Capitalist Democracies.” American Sociological Review 68: 22-51.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. 2004. Egalitarian Capitalism. Russell Sage Foundation. Pp. 94-124.
  • Optional: Palme, Joakim. 2006. “Welfare States and Inequality: Institutional Designs and Distributive Outcome.” Research on Social Stratification and Mobility 24: 387-403.
  • Optional: Marx, Ive, Brian Nolan, and Javier Olivera. 2015. “The Welfare State and Antipoverty Policy in Rich Countries.” Pp. 2063-2139 in Handbook of Income Distribution, volume 2B. Elsevier.
  • Optional: Birnbaum, Simon, Tommy Ferrarini, Kenneth Nelson, and Joakim Palme. 2017. The Generational Welfare Contract. Edward Elgar.
  • Optional: Bruce Bradbury, Markus Jäntti, and Lena Lindahl. 2017. “Labour Income, Social Transfers, and Child Poverty.” Working Paper 707. Luxembourg Income Study.
  • Optional: Helliwell, John, Haifang Huang, and Shun Wang. 2017. “Social Foundations of World Happiness.” World Happiness Report 2017.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “Social Programs.” The Good Society.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “Public Insurance and the Least Well-Off.” The Good Society.

January 29
High employment

  • Huo, Jingjing, Moira Nelson, and John Stephens. 2008. “Decommodification and Activation in Social Democratic Policy: Resolving the Paradox.” Journal of European Social Policy. LINK
  • Kleven, Henrik Jacobsen. 2014. “How Can Scandinavians Tax So Much?” Journal of Economic Perspectives 28(4): 77-98.
  • Optional: Korpi, Walter. 1991. “Political and Economic Explanations for Unemployment: A Cross-National and Long-Term Analysis.” British Journal of Political Science 21: 315-348.
  • Optional: Esping-Andersen, Gøsta, et al. 2002. Why We Need a New Welfare State. Oxford University Press.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. 2008. Jobs with Equality. Oxford University Press.
  • Optional: Marx, Ive, Pieter Vandenbroucke, and Gerlinde Verbist. 2012. “Can Higher Employment Levels Bring Down Relative Income Poverty in the EU? Regression-Based Simulations of the Europe 2020 Target.” Journal of European Social Policy 22: 472-486.
  • Optional: Morel, Nathalie, Bruno Palier, and Joakim Palme, eds. 2012. Towards a Social Investment Welfare State? Bristol, UK: Policy Press.
  • Optional: Blau, Francine D. and Lawrence M. Kahn. 2013. “Female Labor Supply: Why Is the United States Falling Behind?” American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings 103: 251-256.
  • Optional: Cantillon, Bea and Frank Vandenbroucke, eds. 2013. Reconciling Work and Poverty Reduction. Oxford University Press.
  • Optional: Hemerijck, Anton. 2013. Changing Welfare States. Oxford University Press.
  • Optional: Hemerijck, Anton, ed. 2017. The Uses of Social Investment. Oxford University Press.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “Employment.” The Good Society.

February 5

  • Esping-Andersen, Gøsta. 2009. “Investing in Children and Equalizing Life Chances.” Pp. 111-144 in The Incomplete Revolution. Polity. LINK
  • Sabel, Charles, AnnaLee Saxenian, Reijo Miettinen, Peer Hull Kristensen, and Jarkko Hautamäki. 2010. “Individualized Service Provision in the New Welfare State: Lessons from Special Education in Finland.” SITRA.
  • Landersø, Rasmus and James J. Heckman. 2017. “The Scandinavian Fantasy: The Sources of Intergenerational Mobility in Denmark and the U.S.” Scandinavian Journal of Economics 119: 178-230. LINK
  • Optional: Esping-Andersen, Gøsta, Irwin Garfinkel, Wen-Jui Han, Katherine Magnuson, Sander Wagner, and Jane Waldfogel. 2012. “Child Care and School Performance in Denmark and the United States.” Children and Youth Services Review 34: 576-589.
  • Optional: Havnes, Tarjei and Magne Mogstad. 2015. “Is Universal Child Care Leveling the Playing Field?” Journal of Public Economics 127: 100-114.
  • Optional: Magnuson, Katherine and Greg J. Duncan. 2016. “Can Early Childhood Interventions Decrease Inequality of Economic Opportunity?” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 2(2): 123–141.

Empirical analysis proposal #1 due February 12

February 12
Unions, employers, wages

  • Pontusson, Jonas. 2011. “Once Again a Model: Nordic Social Democracy in a Globalized World.” Pp. 89-115 in What’s Left of the Left?, edited by James Cronin, George Ross, and James Shoch. Duke University Press.
  • Barth, Erling, Karl O. Moene, and Fredrik Willumsen. 2014. “The Scandinavian Model — an Interpretation.” Journal of Public Economics 117: 60-72.
  • Optional: Swenson, Peter. 1991. “Bringing Capital Back In, or Social Democracy Reconsidered: Employer Power, Cross-Class Alliances, and Centralization of Industrial Relations in Denmark and Sweden.” World Politics 43: 513-544.
  • Optional: Dølvik, Jan Erik. 2008. “The Negotiated Nordic Labor Markets: From Bust to Boom.” Working Paper 162. Center for European Studies. Harvard University.
  • Optional: Thelen, Kathleen. 2014. Varieties of Liberalization and the New Politics of Social Solidarity. Cambridge University Press.

February 19
No class: Presidents’ Day

February 26
Universalism, equality, trust, good government, institutional coherence

  • Rothstein, Bo and Dietlind Stolle. 2008. “The State and Social Capital: An Institutional Theory of Generalized Trust.” Comparative Politics 40: 441-459.
  • Larsen, Christian. 2013. “Broken Societies: Inequality, Cohesion, and the Middle-Class Dream.” Juncture 20: 193-199. LINK
  • Sønderskov, Kim Mannemar, and Peter Thisted Dinesen. 2014. “Danish Exceptionalism: Explaining the Unique Increase in Social Trust Over the Past 30 Years.” European Sociological Review 30: 782-795.
  • Marx, Ive, Lina Salanauskaite, and Gerlinde Verbist. 2016. “For the Poor, but Not Only the Poor: On Optimal Pro-Poorness in Redistributive Policies.” Social Forces 95: 1-24.
  • Steinmo, Sven. 2013. “Governing as an Engineering Problem: The Political Economy of Swedish Success.” In Politics in the Age of Austerity, edited by Armin Schäfer and Wolfgang Streeck. Polity Press.
  • Schwartz, Herman M. 2001. “The Danish ‘Miracle’: Luck, Pluck, or Stuck?” Comparative Political Studies 34: 131-155.
  • Campbell, John L. and Ove K. Pedersen. 2007. “The Varieties of Capitalism and Hybrid Success: Denmark in the Global Economy.” Comparative Political Studies 40: 307-332.
  • Bäckman, Olof and Kenneth Nelson. 2018. “The Egalitarian Paradise?” Pp. 25-35 in The Routledge Handbook of Scandinavian Politics, edited by Peter Nedergaard and Anders Wivel. Routledge.
  • Optional: Heclo, Hugh and Henrik Madsen. 1987. Policy and Politics and Sweden. Temple University Press.
  • Optional: Korpi, Walter and Joakim Palme. 1998. “The Paradox of Redistribution and Strategies of Equality: Welfare State Institutions, Inequality, and Poverty in the Western Countries.” American Sociological Review 63: 661-687.
  • Optional: Larsen, Christian Albrekt. 2009. “The Institutional Logic of Welfare Attitudes: How Welfare Regimes Influence Public Support.” Comparative Political Studies.
  • Optional: Kathryne B. Brewer, Hans Oh, and Shilpi Sharma. 2014. “‘Crowding In’ or ‘Crowding Out’? An Examination of the Impact of the Welfare State on Generalized Social Trust.” International Journal of Social Welfare 23: 61-68.
  • Optional: Van Lancker, Wim and Natascha Van Mechelen. 2014. Universalism under siege? Exploring the association between targeting, child benefits and child poverty across 26 countries.” Working Paper 14-01. Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
  • Optional: Andersen, Jørgen Goul and Juhana Vartiainen. 2015. “The Nordic Social Models in Turbulent Times.” Pp. 247-287 in European Social Models from Crisis to Crisis, edited by Jon Erik Dølvik and Andrew Martin. Oxford University Press.
  • Optional: Brady, David and Amie Bostic. 2015. “Paradoxes of Social Policy: Welfare Transfers, Relative Poverty, and Redistribution Preferences.” American Sociological Review 80: 268-298.
  • Optional: Jacques, Olivier and Alain Noel. 2016. “The Case for Welfare State Universalism, or the Lasting Relevance of the Paradox of Redistribution.” Journal of European Social Policy.
  • Optional: Campbell, John L. and John A. Hall. 2017. The Paradox of Vulnerability: States, Nationalism, and the Financial Crisis. Princeton University Press. Chapter 2.

Empirical analysis proposal #2 due March 5

March 5
A big tradeoff?

  • Bergh, Andreas. 2014. “What Are the Policy Lessons from Sweden? On the Rise, Fall, and Revival of a Capitalist Welfare State.” New Political Economy 19: 662-694.
  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2017. “Is Big Government Bad for the Economy?” The Good Society. LINK
  • Bakija, Jon. 2016. “Would a Bigger Government Hurt the Economy?” In How Big Should Our Government Be? University of California Press. Pp. 67-108.
  • Optional: Okun, Arthur. 1975. Equality and Efficiency: The Big Tradeoff. Brookings Institution Press.
  • Optional: Korpi, Walter. 1985. “Economic Growth and the Welfare State: Leaky Bucket or Irrigation System?” European Sociological Review 1: 97-118.
  • Optional: Lindbeck, Assar. 1986. “Limits to the Welfare State.” Challenge, Jan-Feb, 31-36.
  • Optional: Becker, Gary. 1990. “As Role Models Go, Sweden Is Suspect.” Business Week, July 9, 14.
  • Optional: Rosen, Sherwin. 1996. “Public Employment and the Welfare State in Sweden.” Journal of Economic Literature 34: 729-740.
  • Optional: Tanzi, Vito. 2011. Governments versus Markets. Cambridge University Press.
  • Optional: Acemoglu, Daron, James Robinson, and Thierry Verdier. 2012. “Can’t We All Be More Like Scandinavians? Asymmetric Growth and Institutions in an Interdependent World.” Working Paper 12-22. Department of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “Shared Prosperity.” The Good Society.

March 12
Will it work outside the Nordic countries?

  • Booth, Michael. 2014. The Almost Nearly Perfect People. Jonathan Cape.
  • Optional: Sanandaji, Nima. 2016. Debunking Utopia: Exposing the Myth of Nordic Socialism. WND Books.

Empirical analysis proposal #3 due March 19

March 19
The immigration-diversity-populism challenge

  • Traub, James. 2016. “The Death of the Most Generous Nation on Earth.” Foreign Policy. February 10. LINK
  • Hooijer, Gerda and Georg Picot. 2015. European Welfare States and Migrant Poverty: The Institutional Determinants of Disadvantage.” Comparative Political Studies 48: 1879-1904.
  • Kesler, Christel. 2015. “Welfare States and Immigrant Poverty: Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom in Comparative Perspective.” Acta Sociologica 58: 39-61.
  • Foster, Chase and Jeff Frieden. 2017. “Europeans Have Lost Faith in Their Governments and Institutions. Why?” Washington Post: The Monkey Cage. LINK
  • Optional: Jungar, Ann-Cathrine. 2018. “Continuity and Convergence: Populism in Scandinavia.” Pp. 147-160 in The Routledge Handbook of Scandinavian Politics, edited by Peter Nedergaard and Anders Wivel. Routledge.
  • Optional: Guiso, L., H. Herrera, M. Morelli, and T. Sonno. 2017. “Demand and Supply of Populism.” Unpublished.


Readings. All of the required readings are available using the links above. Most require a password, which I’ll provide.

Class participation. I expect you to participate actively in class each week. There are lots of ways to do this: ask questions, comment, critique, explain, think out loud.

Presentation. Each student will make one in-class presentation during the semester, on the readings for a given week. Use the standard conference presentation as your model: about 20 minutes, with slides. Don’t merely summarize the readings. Tell us how they could have done better.

Three empirical analysis proposals. Write a proposal describing an empirical strategy to answer a research question drawn from the readings. Identify the research question, evidence, and conclusion(s) in one or more of the readings and suggest an empirical analysis that might shed light on the question. (You may propose more than one analysis if you wish, but don’t spread yourself too thin.) Explain how your proposal would help to answer the question. Be specific and detailed about data and methods. Avoid lengthy introductions and meandering summaries of the readings. You will write three of these proposals. The due dates are listed above. Aim for around 2,000 words, typed single-space with 2-inch side margins.

Grading. Class participation 30%, presentation 30%, empirical analysis proposals 40%.