Despite the fact that employment rates have increased in many European countries since the beginning of the 2000s, poverty rates have stagnated and in some countries even increased. In the welfare state literature, it has been argued that these disappointing poverty trends may be partly attributable to the reforming of traditional welfare state programmes into social investment policies, because the latter are less redistributive. To date, there are only a few systematic comparative empirical analyses which focus on the outcomes of social investment policies. This paper contributes to the social investment literature by empirically analysing the distributional effects of shifts from traditional welfare state arrangements to social investment policies in fifteen European countries for the period 1997–2007. Our results suggest that the detrimental effect of social investment policies, described in some specific cases in the literature, cannot be generalised across a larger group of European countries. However, for European countries other than the Nordic countries, the results provide some evidence for a linkage between stagnating or increasing poverty trends and shifts in expenditures to new welfare state programmes.