The Adoption of Workers' Compensation in the United States 1900-1930

52 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2000

See all articles by Price V. Fishback

Price V. Fishback

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

Shawn Kantor

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 1996

Abstract

The adoption of workers' compensation in the 1910s, from a variety of perspectives, was a significant event in the economic, legal, and political history of the United States. The legislation represented the first instance of a widespread social insurance program in the United States, setting the stage for the later adoption of federal government programs for unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, and health insurance. In this paper, we show that the adoption of workers' compensation was not the result of employers' or workers' to secure benefits at the expense of the other group. Nor was the success of compensation legislation simply the outcome of Progressive Era social reformers' demands for protective legislation. Workers' compensation was enacted rapidly across the United States in the 1910s because the key economic interest groups with a stake in the legislation -- employers, workers, and insurance companies -- anticipated benefits from resolving an apparent first decade of the twentieth century, workplace accident risk rose, state legislatures adopted a series of employers' liability laws, and court decisions limited employers' defenses in liability suits, which all combined to substantially increase the uncertainty of the negligence liability system.

JEL Classification: J3,K3

Suggested Citation

Fishback, Price V. and Kantor, Shawn, The Adoption of Workers' Compensation in the United States 1900-1930 (November 1996). NBER Working Paper No. W5840, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=225626

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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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Shawn Kantor

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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