This entry provides a brief historical introduction to the welfare state in general, and to specific debates over the origins, variety, and economic impact of welfare states. The entry approaches the topic from three perspectives that are of particular interest to students of public policy and public administration. The first section discusses the normative rationales for the creation and expansion of the welfare state put forth by prominent political and scholarly supporters. The second section reviews scholarly work seeking to provide causal explanations for the emergence of welfare states generally, and to account for the wide variety of specific modalities of the welfare state. This section includes a brief discussion of welfare states in non-Western countries. The third and final section looks at the more recent turn to evaluation of the welfare state's impact.