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date: 16 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The welfare system in the United States is not simply “small,”“residualist,” or “laggard.” It is true that protection against standard social risks is generally less comprehensive and less generous in the United States than in other rich democracies, but there are other important differences as well: The U. S. welfare state is unusual in its extensive reliance on private markets to produce public social goods; its geographic variability; its insistence on deservingness as an eligibility criterion; and its orientation toward benefits for the elderly rather than children and working-age adults. Nevertheless, the U.S. welfare state is not sui generis. The actors involved in the construction of the U.S. welfare state, the institutions created in response to social problems, and the contemporary pressures confronting the welfare state all have parallels in other countries. The markets that provide so many social goods in the United States are the products of state action and state regulation, and hence should really be thought of as part of the welfare “state.” Even recent expansions to the welfare state in the United States have, with the partial exception of health-care reform, reinforced old patterns of elderly oriented spending and benefits for worthy (working) adults. In order for the U.S. welfare state to adjust successfully to ensure against new social risks, it must focus more on underdeveloped program areas like health care, child care, early childhood education, and vocational training.

Keywords: welfare, Unites States, comparative, West Europe, pensions, health care, unemployment, housing, poverty, social assistance

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