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Public Policy Analysis: Comparative Social Policy




Admissions requirements

Quantitative Research Methods AND Decision-Making Processes AND/OR Comparative Party Systems.


Why do countries have very different types of welfare states? What factors explain their emergence? Who do social policies protect and why does that vary across countries? When do policy-makers pursue welfare state reforms? What is the effect of globalization on social policy? How can policy-makers address new social risks? Why do individual attitudes towards welfare states vary dramatically across countries? These types of questions will guide our comparative analysis of social policy across countries.

In this course, we study the formation of welfare states and the politics of social policy to understand how different countries address social risks. We explore differences in institutions and policies across countries, as well as the variation in the actors involved in social policy-making. We also compare across policy areas associated with the welfare state, including pensions, unemployment, health, family policy, long-term care, social assistance, and housing. The course draws on a range of datasets about social policy generosity, its political salience, individual attitudes, and more to study the causes and consequences of various approaches to social policy across countries, policy areas, and time.

While much of the academic literature on welfare states is based on Western European cases, we will compare across a diverse range of countries, which is driven by a set of cases selected by participants where one participant will serve as our in-house expert on a specific country. We will explore the actors and factors that drive social policy across countries and experience the analytical value of researching policy through comparative approaches.

Course objectives


  • Understand the components of the welfare state and the factors that influence social policy

  • Compare alternative theories of social policy formation

  • Develop deep case knowledge of one country’s welfare state institutions and social policies


  • Analyze existing social policies and related data through comparison across countries

  • Conduct and write up an independent research project that engages with academic literature and applies quantitative data analysis

  • Write a policy brief to summarize the policy implications of research paper for policy-makers


Once available, timetables will be published in the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course is based on interactive discussions of the readings and application of the theories to case studies, which are drawn from examples and presentations of student country experts. Theoretical sections focus on debates within the literature on the welfare state, whereas comparison across real-existing welfare states will be done through case study examples, presentations by student country experts, and analysis of data related to social policy.


  • Participation and engagement in class – 10%, Weeks 1-7 (Learning outcomes 1-4)

  • Position papers – 30%, Three short papers positioning class readings in the literature in weeks 2-4 (Learning outcomes 1-2)

  • Country expert reports and presentations – 15%, Weeks 3-7 (Learning outcomes 3)

  • Research paper applying quantitative data analysis – 30%, Week 6 (Learning outcomes 5)
    Response to paper feedback and policy brief – 15%, Week 8 (Learning outcome 6)

Please note:

  • In accordance with article 4.8 of the Course and Examination Regulations (OER), within 30 days after the publication of grades, the instructor will provide students the opportunity to inspect their exams/coursework.

  • There is a no re-sit policy at Leiden University College.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Required reading:
Kees Van Kersbergen and Barbara Vis, Comparative Welfare State Politics: Development, Opportunities, And Reform (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).
The book is available in electronic format from the library.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact



For the first session, read chapter 1 of Comparative Welfare State Politics and the course syllabus.