A New Handbook of Political Science

By Robert E. Goodin; Hans-Dieter Klingemann | Go to book overview

Chapter 25
Public Policy and
Administration:
Comparative Policy Analysis

Richard I. Hofferbert David Louis Cingranelli


I Introduction

COMPARATIVE policy analysis is a field of study concerned with variations in the products of governmental activity over time and across different jurisdictions. The field has been guided by a relatively focused set of questions. To what extent are differences in the policies governments produce shaped by the social and economic contexts within which decisions are made? For example, are rich countries more likely to provide social benefits to their citizens than are less affluent countries? To what extent are policy dissimilarities systematically related to differences in governmental institutions and/or political conditions? Are leftist governments more likely than their rightist opponents to enact redistributive welfare policies? Did the modern welfare state get its impetus from the internal dynamics of the industrialization process, from the broadening and deepening of liberal democracy, or from some intricate combination of both?

The core of this research agenda was originally set by a series of studies in the 1960s.1 The units of analysis were varied: American states, English county boroughs, cities in various countries, nation-states. Case studies, which had generally dominated policy analysis to that time, were eschewed in favor of aggregate, cross-jurisdictional statistical analyses, using one or another variation on relatively basic regression analysis correlating economic and political indicators with policy indicators (usually operationalized with expenditure data). The flowering of the field of comparative

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1
See, especially, Dawson and Robinson 1963; Cutright 1965; Dye 1966; Hofferbert 1966; Sharkansky and Hofferbert 1969. For a summary and critique of the first generation of comparative policy analysis, see Hofferbert 1972.

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