Social Insurance and Public Assistance in the Twentieth-Century United States

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5 Scopus citations


The growth of American governments in the twentieth century included large increases in funds for social insurance and public assistance. Social insurance has increased far more than public assistance, so rise in the social insurance state is a far better description of the century than rise in the welfare state. The United States has increased total spending in these areas as much or more as have European countries, but the U.S. spending has relied less heavily on government programs. In the U.S. states largely determine the benefits for many of the public assistance and social insurance programs, leading to large variation in the benefits across the country. I develop estimates of these benefits across time and place and compare them to the poverty line, manufacturing earnings and benefits, state per capita incomes in the US, as well as GDP per capita in countries throughout the world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-350
Number of pages40
JournalJournal of Economic History
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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