|We examine whether a fundamental change in the core dimension of modern 20th century statehood, the welfare state, has become evident in response to changed exogenous and endogenous challenges. By combining quantitative and qualitative approaches we take stock of social policy development in four advanced welfare states - Austria, Denmark, New Zealand and Switzerland - over the last 30 years. Neither spending patterns nor structural changes support the ‘race to the bottom thesis’, according to which the changed environment of welfare state policies has led to a downward spiral in benefit provision. On the contrary, we show that social spending levels have risen mainly due to a catch-up of former welfare state laggards. In structural terms a blurring of welfare regimes can be observed. This twofold process can be described as dual convergence.
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