Substantial literature exists around the variation of welfare policy development in liberal democracies. The contrast of the American welfare state to those in Europe has sparked significant analytical literature about which factors are most significant in the variation. The literature extensively examines many of these factors but has neglected the significance of social values. This article discusses values and policy development as a foundation for further studies linking specific values to policy and institutional development. First, I discuss theorists who have identified value orientation as significant to welfare state variation; second, I review the major comparative welfare state literature. Finally, I discuss the major variation categories through the lens of social values by identifying the significant value orientation of sample policy structures. Comparative welfare state literature benefits from elucidating the values orientation of welfare policies that define the welfare state typological categories. Including the role of social values in welfare state comparisons promotes greater understanding of the origins and trajectory of current policy.
Key Practitioner Message: • Increase understanding of welfare state variation factors; • Frame questions about social values reflected in social policy.