Partisan Politics, The Welfare State, and Three Worlds of Human Capital Formation

  • Iversen T
  • Stephens J
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The authors propose a synthesis of power resources theory and welfare production regime theory to explain differences in human capital formation across advanced democracies. Emphasizing the mutually reinforcing relationships between social insurance, skill formation, and spending on public education, they distinguish three distinct worlds of human capital formation: one characterized by redistribution and heavy investment in public education and industry-specific and occupation-specific vocational skills; one characterized by high social insurance and vocational training in firm-specific and industry-specific skills but less spending on public education; and one characterized by heavy private investment in general skills but modest spending on public education and redistribution. They trace the three worlds to historical differences in the organization of capitalism, electoral institutions, and partisan politics, emphasizing the distinct character of political coalition formation underpinning each of the three models. They also discuss the implications for inequality and labor market stratification across time and space.

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  • education; skills; welfare states; redistribution;

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  • Torbert Iversen

  • John D Stephens

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