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The American Dole: Unemployment Relief and the Welfare State in the Great Depression (Contributions in American History) [Hardcover]

Jeff Singleton

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Book Description

September 30, 2000 0313314004 978-0387946955

As Jeff Singleton shows, the rapid expansion of unemployment relief in the early 1930s generated pressures which led to the first federal welfare programs. However the process has received relatively little attention from historians, and unemployment relief does not play a major role in discussions of the current state of welfare.

Singleton seeks not only to fill this gap, but to challenge popular interpretations of relief policy in the early 1930s. He shows that relief was expanding prior to the depression and that the modern aspects of social policy implemented in the 1920s profoundly influenced the response of the welfare system to the early stages of the economic crisis. Relief under President Herbert Hoover was neither primarily voluntarist nor traditional. The first full-fledged federal welfare program was implemented under the Hoover administration by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. The initial goals of the New Deal's Federal Emergency Relief Administration were to reduce the national relief caseload and the federal welfare role, while improving standards for those on the dole. The institutionalization of state-level welfare was a consequence of the failure of the 1935 reform program (the WPA and the Social Security Act) to eliminate the dole, not a product of conscious liberal policy. Singleton concludes by evaluating the 1996 Personal Responsibility Act in the context of these conclusions. If the dole was not a product of liberal reform, but, instead, arose to fill a policy vacuum, then it will be difficult to eliminate by legislative fiat unless states and the federal government are willing to finance relatively costly alternatives. A provocative analysis of interest to historians and social scientists concerned with American social and labor policy.

Editorial Reviews


.,."offers some thoughtful suggestions for the historical study of New Deal relief and welfare."-Journal of Interdisciplinary History

About the Author

JEFF SINGLETON has taught American history at a number of universities and community colleges. He also has done research for and been active in community organizations, advocacy groups, and human services organizations. He presently is teaching at Boston College.

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