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date: 23 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter traces the evolution of social provision in the United States from the colonial era forward, chronicling the local, state, and national-level policy developments that constituted the foundation on which the American welfare state would be built. Specific social welfare benefits discussed include local poor relief; institutional approaches to social provision, such as the poorhouse and the workhouse; state and federal veterans’ pensions and land grants; and federal land entitlements for nonveterans. The essay also considers the legacy of the English Poor Law; the social construction of citizen deservingness; the establishment of programmatic entitlement as a policy practice; the influence of federalism and of illiberal hierarchies of gender, race, ethnicity, and class on early social policy development; and the special challenges faced by women, the elderly, the disabled, slaves, free blacks, and Native Americans in seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century America.

Keywords: poverty, poor relief, poorhouse, pension, land grant, entitlement, social welfare, social policy, disability, federalism

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