How are institutional conceptions of social welfare reflected in the U.S.?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Social Welfare is the theory that a government is required to give its constituents a basic minimum standard of living if they are not able or willing to work. The idea is that when every person has the minimum standard of living, all people who can work will, thus ensuring that those who cannot or will not keep their benefits.

In the U.S., the first social welfare program was instituted by Franklin D. Roosevelt with the New Deal, Social Security, and a small act called Aid to Dependent Children (ADC). This was the first such program enacted by the Federal Government; while local welfare programs had been available from religious and charitable organizations, these could often only support a small number of the populace, especially when the Great Depression took hold and large numbers of people were out of work and homeless. When Medicare, Medicaid, and public housing programs were enacted in the 1960s, modern welfare officially began. The only other major change to American welfare in recent years was a welfare reform act signed into law by President Bill Clinton, which replaced the ADC with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and imposed work and health requirements to qualify for benefits, as well as time limits on individuals who could not otherwise prove need.

The Institutional Concept of Welfare claims that needs should be met on claim of need instead of examining and fixing the cause of need. This view would always give benefits to anyone who qualifies without addressing the underlying cause of need. In the U.S., this is the commonly held view; most welfare cases are dealt with on a case-to-case basis with no thought given to circumstance. Health and Education are also considered Fundamental Rights, which means that all citizens should receive benefits from birth without having to prove need; the need is assumed especially for children, who usually do not work. When the children become adults, they might consider these benefits entitlements, and so refuse to work based on losing their benefits. It is a difficult situation because there are so many people with real need who are denied benefits for one reason or another, while the money goes to people who might be able to work and get off benefits.


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