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The Evolution of the Institution of Mothers' Pensions in the United States

Ada J. Davis
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 35, No. 4 (Jan., 1930), pp. 573-587
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2765927
Page Count: 15
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The Evolution of the Institution of Mothers' Pensions in the United States
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Abstract

The movement for mothers' pensions in America grew out of a conference called by President Roosevelt in 1909, at which the dissatisfaction with the existing practice was brought to a focus. The first law was passed in Illinois in 1911, and now forty-two states have similar legislation. The varying provisions of the laws reveal the uncertainties of political action and the fortuitous aspects of the detailed enactments. The amounts allowed for each child vary to a degree not determined by any rational consideration of the needs. Similary, the administration of the funds is variously provided for, and no scientific effort to discover the best method is evident. In considering the promotion of the legislation, it is noteworthy that partisanship was avoided, the saving in taxation emphasized, and a humanitarian appeal stressed. The bearing of these facts on the theory of evolving institutions shows less of conscious trial and more of accidental compromise than the current formulations allow.

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