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Work Relief in the 1930s and the Origins of the Social Security Act

Nancy E. Rose
Social Service Review
Vol. 63, No. 1 (Mar., 1989), pp. 63-91
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30012001
Page Count: 29
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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.
Work Relief in the 1930s and the Origins of the Social Security Act
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Abstract

The Social Security Act has provided the basis of the United States federal welfare system since its enactment in 1935. Although the first draft included a proposal for Employment Assurance, a government work program that would have provided public-sector employment for the jobless, it was eliminated by the time the final version was passed. The causes of this exclusion can be found in the massive work-relief programs of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (May 1933-December 1935), the first United States federal welfare program, and the Civil Works Administration (November 1933-March 1934). They were perceived as so problematic-interfering with labor markets and the basic rationality of capitalist production-for-profit-that no work program was contained in the Social Security Act. The work-relief programs of the 1930s can provide models for developing progressive alternatives to current proposals, particularly in support of extensive voluntary government work programs, and thereby help regain control of the welfare reform agenda.

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