The introduction of innovative macro-measures has been one of the preferred means to account for identified limitations of traditional quantitative approaches in comparative analyses of the welfare state. However, these state-of-the-art indicators are not powerful enough to account for the nuanced politics of ‘welfare state change’ across mature welfare states as they produce inconsistent - and in several cases contrary - findings on the country level, which also appear to be at odds with the established notion of ‘regime dependence’ in the historical, case-study literature. Touching upon the limitations of the relevant indicators, we argue that they can at best be seen as crude approximations; this is the root cause for the above asymmetries. The ‘dependent variable problem’ within the comparative analysis of the welfare state is a problem of data and operational definitions as much as it is a problem of theoretical conceptualization. While the combination of nuanced quantitative and historical findings has become the norm in the broader literature, the article stresses the potential of disaggregated analyses of individual social policy domains within nations and its combination with detailed case-study analyses of social policy making.