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date: 25 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The expansion of the safety net in the United States was one of the major changes in the economy in the twentieth century. The public safety net evolved from poverty relief programs run by local governments and private charities to a much larger system dominated by social insurance programs run by different mixtures of the federal and state governments. These included such social insurance programs as Social Security, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and disability insurance, as well as the public assistance programs that are commonly described as welfare programs. This chapter surveys the work done by economic historians on how and why the US safety net expanded during the formative years of the early twentieth century and the impact of those changes.

Keywords: social insurance, safety net, economy, government, charity, public assistance, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, poverty relief, welfare

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