Thomas Bahle, Mathias Maucher, Katherina Fuduli, Beatrix Holzer
Developing a family policy database for Europe
In comparative family policy research there has been a growing need for comparative data and information on family policies in individual countries. Existing data sources are not sufficient, because they are too highly aggregated and do not focus on the family in specific terms. This has been the main reason why a research team at the MZES started to develop a new family policy database. It is being built up within the international research project 'Family Change and Family Policies in the West' which is co-ordinated by the MZES and directed by Sheila Kamerman and Alfred Kahn (Columbia University, New York) and Peter Flora (University of Mannheim).
The family policy database will provide comparative and country-specific data and information on family policies in several European countries. Information is given in the form of quantitative time-series data and standardized form sheets on institutional regulations. Family policies are defined as state (public) policies that are explicitly targeted at the family (or family members and family relationships) or that take the family (or family members and family relationships) explicitly into account in their institutional regulations. Data are provided at the level of individual family policies, which are defined by a specific legal basis or an autonomous institutional character such as family allowances or kindergartens.
The main purpose of the database is to give standardized comparative time-series figures on benefit rates, beneficiaries, expenditure, and financing for each individual measure of family policy. Information on institutional regulations such as entitlement conditions and eligibility criteria are standardized as well. In addition, the database provides country-specific data and information as needed to 'understand' the basic character of family policies in individual countries for comparative purposes. Some examples illustrate the individual database components and how a potential user might employ them in order to get the desired information.
The paper describes the concept for this database and provides some illustrations of what is already available and how the database can be used by interested researchers. A preliminary version of the database will be open to the academic public in summer 1999.