Research

Ongoing research projects

I am currently working on three research projects:

2018-2020: The Politics of Public Investment (PI: Pär Nyman, funded by Forte).

2018-2019: Employer Compliance without Enforcement? A Study on the Law on Universal Posting of Vacancies at the Public Employment Service, and its Effects on Labor Market Integration (PI: Joakim Palme, funded by IFAU).

2019-2024: Aging Migrants, Labor Market Transitions and the Welfare State (PI: Olof Åslund, funded by the Swedish Research Council).

Publications

Cronert, A. (forthcoming) “Varieties of Employment Subsidy Design: Theory and Evidence from Across Europe.” Journal of Social Policy, first view. (Accepted version) (Abstract)

Employment subsidy programs have experienced considerable expansion across Europe in recent decades. To date, most studies analyzing this policy shift have assumed that these programs are largely equivalent in terms of their designs, effects, and explanations. In contrast, this article argues that employment subsidies are best understood as versatile multi-purpose tools that can be used as means to rather different distributional ends. Using Multiple Correspondence Analysis to explore novel data from hundreds of employment subsidy programs across Europe, this article develops a new typology based on two overarching trade-offs. The typology highlights that employment subsidies may be designed to counteract as well as to sustain insider/outsider divides in the labor market, and that they may be designed to tackle either structural or cyclical labor market problems. In a first empirical evaluation of the typology, programs with different designs are found to vary systematically in terms of distributional outcomes and starting conditions.

Cronert, A. & J. Palme (2019) “Social Investment at Crossroads: ‘The Third Way’ or ‘The Enlightened Path’ Forward?” in B. Cantillon, T. Goedemé & J. Hills (eds.), Decent Incomes for All, New York, NY: Oxford University Press. (Abstract)

The concept of social investment has gained ground among European Union policymakers as a strategy to reconcile the goals of employment, growth, and social inclusion. However, scholars have criticized the social investment approach for not achieving its intended distributional consequences and have questioned the complementarity between the goals of increasing employment and decreasing poverty. We argue that distinguishing between the “Enlightened Path”—more commonly known as the “Nordic approach”—and the “Third Way” approach to social investment is important for understanding the relationships between social investment policies, employment, and poverty. By critically examining policy developments in Sweden, we find that the recent noticeable increase in relative poverty can best be accounted for by changes in tax and transfer policies that represent a shift from the Nordic approach to the Third Way approach, whereas an “employment vs. poverty” trade-off is mitigated by the sustained presence of a compressed wage structure.

Cronert, A. (forthcoming) “Unemployment Reduction or Labor Force Expansion? How Partisanship Matters for the Design of Active Labor Market Policy in Europe.” Socio-Economic Review, published online April 26, 2017. (Unrefereed version) (Abstract)

Comparative scholars fundamentally disagree about the impact of partisan politics in modern welfare states, particularly in certain ‘new’ policy areas such as active labor market policy (ALMP). Using new data on 900 ALMP programs across Europe, this study attempts to reconcile a long-standing dispute between the traditional ‘power resources’ approach and the ‘insider/outsider’ approach pioneered by Rueda. The study argues that both left-wing and right-wing governments invest in ALMP but that politics still matter because parties’ preferences regarding unemployment differ. The left is more inclined to expand programs primarily designed to reduce unemployment, which exclusively target ‘core’ groups in, or at risk of, unemployment, and programs in which participants are no longer counted among the unemployed. In contrast, both sides are equally prone to expand programs that also—or instead—target people who are not yet participating in the labor market, which thus also—or instead—serve to increase labor supply.

Cronert, A. (2018) “Accommodation or Extraction? Employers, the State, and the Joint Production of Active Labor Market Policy.” Politics & Society, 46(4): 539-569. (Accepted version) (Abstract)

Conventional wisdom among comparative political economists maintains that the participation of employers in policymaking and policy implementation, fostered by corporatist arrangements, is crucial to the successful expansion of active labor market policy (ALMP). This article introduces a transaction-oriented theory of corporatism, partisanship, and ALMP that challenges the dominant view. It argues that corporatist arrangements do not affect the overall scope of ALMP but facilitate particular types of ALMP programs, ones that require the joint participation of employers and the state and involve a transfer of public resources to employers. Corporatist arrangements facilitating such programs—which center-right parties tend to prefer over those produced unilaterally by the state—also shift the focus of partisan conflict over ALMP from the level of public expenditure to the structure. Evidence for these claims is provided by time-series cross-sectional analyses of twenty-one OECD countries since the mid-1980s.

Cronert, A. (2018) “All Interventionists Now? On the Political Economy of Active Labor Market Policy as Micro-Interventionist Multi-Tools.” Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences 149. Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. (Abstract)

As recent decades have seen a growing interest in reforming advanced welfare states to promote employment, active labor market policy (ALMP) has emerged as a major topic of inquiry among comparative political economists. Whereas the literature to date disagrees on, and mostly downplays, the role of partisan politics in the development of ALMP, this dissertation shows that political actors systematically use ALMP programs in different ways to achieve distinct political aims. Drawing mostly on a rich, new panel data set on approximately 1,000 programs across Europe, the dissertation draws attention to several politically salient dimensions of ALMP that need to be taken seriously to understand how partisan politics matter in advanced industrial democracies.

Essay I reconciles the conflicting understandings of partisanship and ALMP in the ‘power resources’ and ‘insider/outsider’ schools by highlighting that ALMP programs may serve two overarching purposes. The essay shows that left-leaning governments are particularly inclined to expand programs designed primarily to reduce unemployment, whereas governments of all suits are equally supportive of programs that also, or instead, serve to increase labor supply.

Essay II focuses on employment subsidies, documenting how these may be designed to tackle different labor market challenges among different target groups. Emphasizing institutional path dependency, the essay then shows that cross-national variation in employment subsidy design broadly reflects the varying institutional regimes in different parts of Europe.

Essay III reconsiders the conventional view on the importance of employer involvement and corporatist institutions for ALMP by separating programs produced unilaterally by the state from programs, such as employment subsidies, produced jointly by the state and employers to the benefit of both. The essay finds that corporatist institutions primarily matter for ALMP by paving the way for governments—especially with business-friendly center-right parties—that favor joint over unilateral production.

The introductory essay argues that ALMP forms part of a larger family of economic policies that are sufficiently versatile to be sustained and used by actors across the political spectrum. Reviewing long-term trends in economic policy in OECD countries, it shows that these policies, which are here labelled micro-interventionist multi-tools, have expanded considerably since the early 1980s. 

Cronert, A. & J. Danielsson (2012) “Försäkringsmässighetens problem – om dolda fördelningseffekter i socialförsäkringarna.” Ekonomisk Debatt, 40(8): 84-87. (Abstract)

Försäkringsmässighet lyfts ofta fram som ett viktigt mål för de svenska socialförsäkringarna. Innebörden i begreppet försäkringsmässighet är emellertid mångtydig, vilket har lett till att olika aktörer använder begreppet på olika sätt för att främja sina intressen. Med andra ord har försäkringsmässigheten kommit att användas för att dölja, snarare än tydliggöra politiska ambitioner. Detta är olyckligt då det bland de aktuariska principer som försäkringsmässigheten bygger på gömmer sig en potentiell omfördelningskonflikt mellan personer med olika kombinationer av inkomst och risk för arbetslöshet eller sjukdom.

Recent work and work in progress

Cronert, A. & P. Nyman (2019) A General Approach to Measuring Electoral Competitiveness for Parties and Governments. Submitted manuscript. (Abstract)

We develop a general approach to measuring electoral competitiveness for parties and governments, which is distinct from existing approaches in two ways. First, it allows us to estimate the actual probability of re-electing the incumbent into office, which lies closer to the theoretical concept of interest than most widely used proxies. Second, it incorporates both pre-electoral competitiveness – i.e., the uncertainty about the outcome of the upcoming election – and post-electoral competitiveness – i.e., the uncertainty concerning who will form the government given a certain election result. The approach can easily be applied to, and compared across, a multitude of institutional settings and is particularly advantageous in analyses of multi-party democracies. We demonstrate our approach using data on 1,700 local government elections in Sweden and document three advantages over existing approaches. Our election probability measure shows substantial variation over the election cycle, it can be accurately measured for a single party as well as a government, and its ability to predict re-election into office is higher than that of any previous measure of electoral competitiveness.

Cronert, A. (2019) All Interventionists Now? A Critical Re-Examination of Long-Term Trends in Economic Policy in Advanced Democracies. Submitted manuscript. (Abstract)

This essay advances an alternative account of the long-term changes in economic policy in eighteen OECD countries over the past four decades, which challenges the common narrative that the strongly interventionist post-war era, underpinned by a Keynesian policy paradigm, has been succeeded by a largely non-interventionist era where policy predominantly derives from monetarist theory. A systematic re-examination of trends in numerous economic policy indicators finds no such succession of paradigms; instead policies with different ideational foundations currently cohabitate. Policymakers have surely abandoned many heterodox ‘power tools’ of previous eras, while establishing new norms for monetary policy based on monetarist theory. However, they still retain their commitment to traditional Keynesian discretionary fiscal policy and automatic stabilizers. Importantly, they are moreover developing a new approach to economic policy, here labelled the micro-interventionist state—or the ‘Swiss Army Knife State’, as it were. The cross-partisan appeal of the ‘multi-tools’ associated with this growing approach—such as horizontal industrial policy, active social policy, and social tax expenditures—partly stems from their versatility, as policymakers may use them to very different distributional ends. Hence, to fully understand contemporary economic policy, scholars need to shift focus from how much to how policymakers intervene in the economy.

Cronert, A. (2018) Is Employer Compliance with Regulations Possible Without Enforcement? Evidence from the Swedish Labor Market. Paper presented at the Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy – IFAU, the Uppsala Center for Labor Studies, The Swedish Network for Social Policy and Welfare Research, and the Department of Government at Uppsala University in November and December, 2018. (Abstract)

This study shines new light on an ongoing debate about the extent to which deterrent enforcement activities are necessary to make regulated actors comply with government regulations. Specifically, it evaluates a long-standing but essentially unenforced regulation that mandated employers in Sweden to post their vacancies at the Public Employment Service (PES), to improve matching and the labor market prospects of disadvantaged workers. Using comprehensive vacancy data from the PES, it tests whether the regulation—despite not being enforced— influenced employers vacancy posting behavior in the period prior to its partial repeal in 2007. Exploiting the fact that the repeal did not apply to employers in the central government sector, the difference- in-differences (DID) and generalized synthetic control (GSC) analyses applied in this study identify a substantial and significant effect of the unenforced law on employer behavior. This finding is at odds with standard deterrence models of regulatory compliance and hints at an important role for organizational factors related to cultures and norms. Tentative evidence suggests that respect for the regulator is one such factor that may promote compliance in the absence of enforcement.

Cronert, A. & J. Palme (2017) “Approaches to Social Investment and Their Implications for Poverty in Sweden and the European Union.” Global Challenges Working Paper Series No. 4. Bergen: CROP / University of Bergen. Previous version presented at Harvard University, November 17, 2016. (Abstract)

The concept of social investment has gained increasing traction among European Union policymakers, as a strategy to reconcile the goals of employment, growth, and social inclusion. In recent years, however, scholars have criticized the social investment approach for not being able to achieve its intended distributional consequences and have raised doubts about whether the goals of increasing employment and decreasing poverty are reconcilable. This paper argues that distinguishing between the ‘Nordic approach’ and the ‘Third Way approach’ to social investment is key both for describing policy developments and for understanding the relationships between social investment policies, employment and poverty. Based on an exploration of recent trends in social investment policies, employment and poverty in Sweden, we propose that the recent noticeable increase in poverty can best be accounted for by changes in social insurance policy and tax policy that represent a shift from the Nordic approach to the Third Way approach, whereas an ‘employment vs. poverty’ trade-off is mitigated by the sustained presence of a compressed wage structure. A set of panel data analyses on 24 European countries over the last decade provide preliminary evidence that these mechanisms extend also beyond Sweden.

Palme J. & A. Cronert (2015) “Trends in the Swedish Social Investment Welfare State: ‘The Enlightened Path’ or ‘The Third Way’ for ‘the Lions’?” ImPRovE Working Paper No. 15/12. Antwerp: Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy – University of Antwerp. (Abstract)

The concept of social investment has gained ground on the EU-level, manifested among other things in the launching of the ‘Social investment package’ by the EU Commission in 2013 and subsequent engagement in the follow up of that initiative. In this context, the Nordic experience has no doubt played an important role and Sweden is an interesting case in point for discussing the social investment approach. We argue that Sweden has long tradition of social investment which has contributed to a number of positive outcomes, such as low poverty and high employment. However, our examination of more recent trends suggests that the achievements are now jeopardised by the trend towards a cheaper ‘Third Way’ version of the social investment approach. Since the investment quality of policy interventions has been diluted, not least in the field of active labour market policy, and old redistribution policies are at drift, it has become difficult to combat old as well as new inequalities and social divisions. Still, a more enlightened development path is open but requires serious recasting of the social investment policy package.

Cronert, A. (2014) Economic-Political Interaction Explaining Local Variations in Privatization of Public Services. Workshop at Uppsala Center for Labor Studies, Uppsala. (Abstract)

This study seeks to make one theoretical, one methodological, and one empirical contribution to the on-going study of local governments’ contracting out decisions. First, it is suggested that the amount of public services contracted out to firms is best explained by an interaction between local political preconditions and the local economic preconditions facing prospective firms. It is argued that while both factors are necessary, none of them is sufficient for extensive contracting out to occur. Second, to enable the observation and interpretation of the interaction effect, a multiplicative regression model is used to supplement the traditional additive technique. Third, when the theory is tested on the hitherto unexplored case of the Swedish elderly care market; it is found that in a majority of municipalities, right-wing dominance is related to increased contracting out of elderly care services. However, in the 10% or more with the least favorable business environment (assessed on the basis of urbanization, population, and income), privatization is not a question of politics but one of (lacking) economic potential. The findings suggest a limit to the extent to which the local variations in privatization can be affected by national legislation, and imply that the national government will not be able to guarantee all citizens access to a choice of alternative service delivery, when relying on firms and the free market alone.