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How do social transfer payments interact with income from work and with family supports to moderate the downward mobility of incomes after the experience of standard risks of income loss? Are we witnessing a “great risk shift” from public to private responsibility? Does the German welfare state become less generous and more similar to the liberal American welfare state?

These are the key research problems addressed by the unit in an attempt to develop an institution-related analysis of social structure that combines the measurement of social policy changes since the 1980s with the analysis of panel data on income dynamics in Germany and the United States. Looking at four selected risks – unemployment, illness, retirement, and family break-up – the interdisciplinary research team composed of political scientists and sociologists analyzes how social entitlements have changed over the past three decades, how deep family incomes fall in both countries after the experience of these risks and to what extent and how quickly households succeed in regaining lost levels of income. The transatlantic comparison is complemented by a second project that analyzes recent changes in the British social policies and their impact on political attitudes.