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date: 10 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The American welfare state has a long and complicated history. Political institutions, organized groups, ideas, and values have worked singly and in myriad combinations to shape US social policy; no single factor stands out as the most important influence. The end result, however, is increasingly clear. Built over many decades and shaped by so many different hands, the American welfare state has emerged as a large, jerry-rigged contraption capable of helping some groups of citizens far more than others. While citizens, pundits, and policymakers alike may lament the lack of rational design, a historical perspective helps us understand why the contemporary American welfare state fails to deliver on some of its promises.

Keywords: welfare state, social policy, poverty, inequality, social insurance, tax expenditures

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