Two-thirds of UK government spending now goes on the welfare state and where the money is spent – healthcare, education, pensions, benefits – is the centre of political and public debate.
Much of that debate is dominated by the myth that the population divides into those who benefit from the welfare state and those who pay into it – 'skivers' and 'strivers', 'them' and 'us'.
This ground-breaking book, written by one of the UK’s leading social policy experts, uses extensive research and survey evidence to challenge that view. It shows that our complex and ever-changing lives mean that all of us rely on the welfare state throughout our lifetimes, not just a small ‘welfare-dependent’ minority.
Using everyday life stories and engaging graphics, Hills clearly demonstrates how the facts are far removed from the myths.
John Hills is Professor of Social Policy and Director of the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics. He has written extensively on inequality, public policy and the welfare state. He was a member of the UK Pensions Commission and Chair of the National Equality Panel for the Labour government and led a review of the measurement of fuel poverty for the Coalition government. He was knighted in 2013 for services to the development of social policy.
"A terrific book - really well written and intellectually compelling." Professor Lord Tony Giddens
“This book is an extremely important contribution to central debates about the UK’s welfare state, deploying a wealth of statistical and research evidence in a highly accessible fashion to fundamentally challenge widely held perceptions about who benefits and who pays.” Brian Nolan, University of Oxford
"Rarely have I been gladder to have read a book!" LSE Review of Books
"A lively and provocative book that will overturn your assumptions about the welfare state. A great read, and a 'must read' for policy-makers and the public alike." Jane Waldfogel, Columbia University School of Social Work, New York
"An invaluable store of facts vital in helping to expose the forces that are determined to destroy our welfare state." Counterfire
"The chancellor could do worse than read the wonderful recent book by John Hills. Entitled Good Times, Bad Times – The Welfare Myth of Them and Us, it explains in vivid detail just how important the welfare state is to the majority of the population over their life cycles." The Observer
“Hills passionately and rigorously shows how very different families rely on the intergenerational contract we call the welfare state. Accessible and learned, it is a myth buster.” Howard Glennerster, LSE
"Another authoritative and myth-busting book from John Hills." Julian Le Grand, LSE
"Should be compulsory reading not just for politicians and journalists, but for us all" Sheila Gilmore MP, Progress
"John Hills examines how social policies in the United Kingdom and Australia redistribute across the life course...and offers a powerful corrective to many of the myths of the welfare state." Australian Review of Public Affairs
"A cracking book...a forensic account of the contemporary UK welfare state." Times Higher Education
"Rather than showing the life course effects on individuals and families, these perspectives show us the impact of risks that individuals and their families face." Australian Review of Public Affairs
"A meticulous compendium of decades of empirical work that seeks to upend the divisive discourse of “the welfare myth of them and us”" The Guardian
"An extremely relevant read uncovering how the welfare state works for everyone and has been unravelling through welfare reforms." Housing Sector Review
"A valuable and thought-provoking study which should provide the basis for much policy analysis and making." Journal of Social Policy
"Hills systematically shatters the myth that the welfare state supports an undeserving underclass. Undergraduates, graduate students, practitioners, and general readers will appreciate this readable, eye-opening book" - Choice
'Masterfully, John Hills has brought together all the important research work of the Welfare State into a compelling, challenging and highly readable account'. Rt Hon Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education
"John Hills points out that one of the starkest ways in which inequality manifests itself is through differences in mortality." Inside Story
"If the Labour Party is going to get back to becoming more of a moral crusade and less of an apologia for austerity, reading Good Times, Bad Times would be a very good place to start." People, Place and Policy
"An invaluable tool in the ongoing battle to challenge the denigration of welfare and the continuing stigmatisation of the most disadvantaged in society." Critical and Radical Social Work
"Hills looks at how two generations of fictitious families pay into and benefit from the welfare state throughout their lives." Australian Review of Public Affairs
"An academic book for everyone... every bit as revealing as an episode of The Wire." Danny Dorling, Times Higher Education
"In this excellent and accessible book John Hills sets out to establish what is really going on in the contemporary welfare system in the UK." Christopher May, Lancaster University
“A beautifully researched academic howl of rage against the current myth of 'welfare’. Anyone who wants to understand the state of welfare – and of the welfare state – in the second decade of the 21st century really needs to read this book.” Nicholas Timmins, Institute for Government and King's Fund