Comparative Welfare States Dataset, 2004 ed.

The data contained in this data set were collected by a project entitled "The Welfare State in Comparative Perspective: Determinants, Program Characteristics, and Outcomes" directed by Evelyne Huber, Charles Ragin, and John Stephens. This project received seed money from the Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research (now Institute for Policy Research) at Northwestern University in 1989-90 and was supported in 1990-92 by a grant from the National Science Foundation (Grant # SES 9108716). The LIS project also aided in the early stages of data collection. Continued support in 1992-97 was provided by the Institute for Research in the Social Sciences, the Department of Political Science, and the Morehead Alumni Chair held by Evelyne Huber, University of North Carolina, and by the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

In the initial stage of data collection in 1989-92, it was the intention of the project directors to collect a wide range of indicators of welfare state development, its causes, and its outcomes on an annual basis for the period 1945-89. The data for the period before 1960 proved to be far too spotty for inclusion in pooled time series analysis . For this reason, this data set begins with data for 1960. Because the project leaders were faced with limited resources in the process of updating the data to 1994, the data series for a number of variables for which data are available for the period 1990-94 were not updated. Generally, it can be said that OECD data are available for this period. However, data from the ILO's Cost of Social Security, the single most important source for data on social expenditure, were not available beyond 1989 as of December 1997.

This update includes the original Comparative Welfare States Data Set, and updates and additions by Stephens, Brady, and Beckfield. Several new variables were added and most variables were updated to 2000.. Variables in the original data set were updated using more recent versions of the original sources, and also with some new sources. Some of the original sources are unavailable in recent years and no alternative source could be identified, so those variables were not always updated. In particular, the ILO social spending data which were the basis for many analyses beginning in the mid-1970s has not been updated. Note that some updates of those data are available to the interested scholar at the ILO website.

Major categories include: wage and salary data, social spending, revenue and welfare state institutions data, labour force and labour institutions data, demographic data, macroeconomic data (Penn world tables, mark 6.1), political variables.

Data creator
Huber, Evelyne, Charles Ragin, & John D. Stevens
Date of creation
2004 Apr
Date of distribution
2008 May 29th
Geographic coverage

International: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, West Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States.

Time period
Mode of data collection

Extracted from varied sources. See codebook.

Unit of observation

With the adoption of the Euro in several EU countries, users should be careful in constructing ratios and percentages. One should be certain that both the numerator and denominator are in the same currency in every year. The data sources have been inconsistent in retroactively converting entire or partial time series to the Euro currency.

The project directors ask scholars using this data set in conference papers and publications to send a copy of the papers or publications to send the papers and publications to Evelyne Huber and John D. Stephens, Department of Political Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3265. Please direct any questions about this data set to John D. Stephens at the address above or at the e-mail addresses mention on this page. We intend to update this data set every three or four years and demonstrating that it is widely used will help us to secure funding to carry out the work.


Evelyne Huber, et al. Comparative welfare states data set [computer file]. Northwestern University, University of North Carolina, Duke University and Indiana University [producer and distributor], 2004.

Access status
Access conditions and restrictions

Open (see restrictions in notes).