Big Data and the Welfare State: How the Information Revolution Threatens Social Solidarity, Torben Iversen and Philipp Rehm

Reviewed by Xiaoye She

Canonical works in comparative political economy have highlighted the role of the state in social protection, and on how partisanship and power resources have produced institutional variations across welfare states in developed democracies. Yet these typologies and causal frameworks are increasingly challenged as the welfare state has experienced volatile changes and restructuring across developed democracies in recent decades. Weakened solidarity, marked by welfare retrenchments and rising inequality in access to and coverage of social protection, is often attributed to the decline of the working class and unions, technological change, globalization, deindustrialization, and labor market segmentation, as reviewed by Iversen and Rehm in this book. However, there has been little attention on how proliferation and wider distribution of information regarding risks can impact social protection and inequality. Iversen and Rehm offer a timely and novel contribution to the literature by proposing and empirically testing how big data has become another driving force behind weakened social solidarity across developed democracies.

The authors begin with an important research question: What happens to social protection and inequality when information about related risks becomes more available, accurate, and sharable? Their main argument is that more information can allevi

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