2019-10-08Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.18452/21442
A paradigm shift in German family policy
Applying a topic model to map reform and public discourse, 1990–2016
Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät
This article explores the newspaper discourse surrounding a paradigm shift in social policy. The case at hand, Germany, is a prime example of a welfare state that was particularly resistant to reform. Hence, the rapid paradigm shift in German family policy since the late 1990s is puzzling. This study seeks to resolve this puzzle by drawing on the insight that public discourse is crucial for policy change. Politicians have to promote reforms prior to their implementation. The main channel for communication with the wider public is the mass media. I use newspaper coverage from 1990 to 2016 to analyze whether the media is responsive to reform initiatives. I use topic modeling, an innovative method from the computational social sciences (CSS), to identify dominant themes and shifts over time in a large corpus of newspaper articles (N = 1,459). The analysis shows that public discourse was responsive to the parliamentary debate. The article also clarifies the role of critical events and identifies discursive strategies.
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