Welfare States: Protecting or Risking Old Age

  • Jill Quadagno
  • Ben Lennox Kail
  • K. Russell Shekha
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


The modern welfare state was created in the long economic expansion of the post-World War II era, as rising productivity and economic growth made it possible for governments to fund an array of benefits that provided a modicum of income security across the life course. Although welfare states everywhere included benefits for unemployment, health and disability, the bulk of expenditures went to public pensions. In all western capitalist democracies, expenditures for the aged represented the single largest item in national budgets. As Myles (1989:2) states, “the contemporary welfare state in the capitalist democracies is largely a welfare state for the elderly.” Public pensions made it possible for older people to retire before any actual physiological decline occurred. More importantly, they exempted the wages of the old from the control of the market with its laws of supply and demand and instead subjected them to a process of political decision-making that led to ever more generous pensions as elected officials competed to claim credit for benefit hikes.


Welfare State Public Pension Female Labor Force Participation Pension Reform Private Pension 
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Copyright information

© Springer New York 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jill Quadagno
    • 1
  • Ben Lennox Kail
  • K. Russell Shekha
  1. 1.Department of SociologyFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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