Welfare State Myths and Measurement
26 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2015
Date Written: July 11, 2015
Myths about welfare states and their effects on economic development abound. In this paper, we rebut three central, related myths: that the current American welfare state is unusually small, that the United States has always been a welfare state laggard, and that the welfare state undermines productivity and economic growth. Very reasonable changes in measurement reveal that all three beliefs are untrue. The American welfare state appears relatively small only by restricting the comparison to rich nations, ignoring employer-provided health insurance, pensions, and public education, and measuring size relative to GDP, rather than on a real per capita basis. The inclusion of public education turns the United States from a laggard to a leader in welfare state development. Including public education and public health as well as cash benefits suggests that welfare state programs as a whole enhance the productivity of capitalism and spur economic development.
Comments on this paper can be found at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2566430.
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