This chapter discusses the conceptual problems encountered in analysing the development of the welfare state and presents statistical data. During the postwar period social scientists have explored them using various theoretical perspectives. Most Since social policy has constituted an essential component in the political programmes and platforms of the Swedish Social Democrats, the chapter examines its role in shaping the electoral choice of voters in the 1970s. In the area of social policy a distinction has long been made between absolute and relative definitions of poverty. The concept of social policy is used in a comprehensive way to include public policy aiming to influence the distribution of welfare in society in an equalizing direction, where equalization can occur between groups of citizens or between various periods of an individual’s life. Within the social sciences there are a number of partly competing, partly overlapping theoretical approaches in the analysis of distribution and inequality in Western societies.