European countries are confronted with similar demographic, social and financial pressures in relation to their need to develop their care regimes although the policy responses to those pressures vary significantly among the different countries. An interesting research question then becomes the extent and nature of the ‘care deficit’ problem in European societies and how effective the different care regimes are in dealing with these problems through policy innovation. However, in comparative research the definition (and distinction between) dependent and independent variables are often underspecified deriving in problems of causality. I will discuss the ‘care deficit’ issue using as dependent variables quantity and quality of care and working conditions of carers and the institutional and socio-economic contexts where the care sector is embedded as the independent variables. An attempt to specify these variables, their interactions and the indicators that will measure them, in a theoretically meaningful way will be made. Moreover, given the nature of these dependent and independent variables, research often needs to combine quantitative/qualitative analyses on the one hand with cross-national/in-depth national case studies on the other. The presentation will reflect on these methodological challenges when comparing recent developments in care provision across countries.