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date: 20 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Historical institutionalism (HI) has made vital contributions to our understanding of US social policy by addressing a set of interconnected questions. Why does the United States spend so little on public social programs compared to other rich democracies? Why has the US fashioned such distinctive forms of social protection? How has the peculiar design of the American welfare state shaped the politics of social policy? And what have been the distributive consequences of the rightward shift in politics since the 1970s? Through deeply historical accounts of policy development, HI scholars have explained central features of welfare-state politics that prior frameworks had taken as given—including basic power relations in the American political system.

Keywords: social policy, welfare state, American exceptionalism, institutional change, policy feedback

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