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The Formative Years of U.S. Social Spending Policies: Theories of the Welfare State and the American States During the Great Depression

Edwin Amenta and Bruce G. Carruthers
American Sociological Review
Vol. 53, No. 5 (Oct., 1988), pp. 661-678
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2095814
Page Count: 18
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Formative Years of U.S. Social Spending Policies: Theories of the Welfare State and the American States During the Great Depression
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Abstract

This paper reports the results of a cross-sectional analysis of emergency relief, unemployment insurance, and old-age pensions in the 48 American states. It analyzes six outcomes: state emergency-relief expenditures and federal emergency-relief expenditures from 1933 to 1935; the timing of passage of unemployment-compensation legislation; the timing of passage of old-age pension legislation; and the contents of old-age pension and unemployment-compensation legislation. These outcomes represent different dimensions of social policy and are used to appraise three theoretical approaches: economic, democratic politics, and statist explanations. In the analysis, the sample is split into industrialized and nonindustrialized states, in accordance with recent cross-national research on social policy and social spending. Although the results yield some support for all three perspectives, the statist perspective is especially well supported. The findings suggest that the different perspectives are limited in applicability to specific outcomes or samples, or both. The superior performance of the statist perspective is due to its applicability across outcomes and subsamples.

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