A Patchwork Safety Net: A Survey of Cliometric Studies of Income Maintenance Programs in the United States in the First Half of the Twentieth Century

46 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2010

See all articles by Price V. Fishback

Price V. Fishback

University of Arizona; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Samuel Allen

Virginia Military Institute

Jonathan Fox

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Brendan Livingston

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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Abstract

Social welfare programs in the USA are designed to serve as safety nets for people in hard times, in contrast with the universal approach found in many other developed western nations. In a survey of cliometric studies of social welfare programs in the USA, we examine the variation in the safety net in the USA across states in the 20th century, the determinants of the variation and its impact on socioeconomic outcomes. The USA has always displayed substantial variation in the extent of the safety net because the features of most public social welfare programs have been and currently are determined by local and state governments, even after the federal government became involved in the 1930s. Differences across states persist strongly for typically a decade, although the persistence weakens with time, and there are some periods when federal intervention led to a re-ordering. The rankings of state benefits differ from program to program, and economic and political factors have different weights in determining benefit levels in panel data estimation of their effects. Variation in benefits across programs during the early 1900s had significant impact on labour markets, economic activity, family formation, death rates and crime.

Suggested Citation

Fishback, Price V. and Allen, Samuel and Fox, Jonathan and Livingston, Brendan, A Patchwork Safety Net: A Survey of Cliometric Studies of Income Maintenance Programs in the United States in the First Half of the Twentieth Century. Journal of Economic Surveys, Vol. 24, No. 5, pp. 895-940, December 2010, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1703155 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6419.2010.00638.x

Price V. Fishback (Contact Author)

University of Arizona ( email )

Tucson, AZ 85721-0108
United States
520-621-4421 (Phone)
520-621-8450 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Samuel Allen

Virginia Military Institute ( email )

Department of Economics and Business
Scott Shipp Hall
Lexington, VA 24450
United States

HOME PAGE: http://academics2.vmi.edu/ECBU/AllenSK/

Jonathan Fox

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Brendan Livingston

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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