The American Welfare System: Origins, Structure, and Effects

By Howard Gensler | Go to book overview

pensions were still likely to appear if there was vigorous enforcement of compulsory school attendance laws.

The story of how child labor laws preceded and forced the introduction of child welfare programs seems somewhat harsh and inhumane to modern eyes. Yet it is a story which provides a realistic vision of social change. As Owen Lovejoy explained, "We are a great people for correcting big abuses, but we have no interest at all in keeping the abuse from arriving. We do not pass good fire laws till the whole town is swept away."57

In the end, the explanation offered above does not square well with the usual class conflict approach, since the interests of the poor lie in preserving their traditional right to benefit from their children's labor. Nor does it mesh with the apolitical aspects of the evolutionary school: First, the abolition of child labor is clearly a matter of politics, since its abolition requires the political defeat of interests that have a stake in child labor; and, second, the creation of an administrative capacity to enforce child labor and compulsory school attendance is also clearly a matter of politics. I propose a genuinely political interpretation of the rise of child welfare programs, but one that ironically puts the middle class, and not the impoverished, on the cutting edge of reform.


NOTES
1.
Quoted in Walter I. Trattner, Crusade for the Children: A History of the National Child Labor Committee and Child Labor Reform in America ( Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1970), p. 8.
2.
Ibid., p. 8.
3.
Viviana A. Zelizer The Price of the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children ( New York: Basic Books, 1985) discusses how this change in American culture affected the sale of children's insurance and adoption policies.
4.
William F. Ogburn, Progress and Uniformity in Child-Labor Legislation: A Study in Statistical Measurement ( New York: Columbia University, 1912), pp. 80-81.
5.
Elizabeth S. Johnson, "Child Labor Legislation," in John R. Commons, ed., History of Labor in the United States, 1898-1932 ( New York: The Macmillan Company, 1935), Vol. 3, p. 409.
6.
Ogburn, op. cit., pp. 80-81.
7.
Elizabeth H. Davidson, Child Labor Legislation in the Southern Textile States (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1939), p. 252.
8.
The rapid success of the program also seems to be due to the political might of womens' organizations. See Theda Skocpol, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States ( Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992).

-18-

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The American Welfare System: Origins, Structure, and Effects
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • I - The Origins of the American Welfare System 1
  • 1 - The Child and the American Welfare State 3
  • Notes 18
  • 2 - The New View of the Child 23
  • Notes 48
  • 3 - Progressive Priorities 55
  • Notes 69
  • 4 - Child Labor and the Mothers' Pension Movement 73
  • Notes 91
  • 5 - The Democratization of Outdoor Relief 97
  • Notes 120
  • 6 - Child Labor and Southern Patriotism 125
  • Notes 150
  • 7 - Farm Labor and "City-Centered" Child Welfare 155
  • Notes 168
  • 8 - The Case of Mothers' Pensions in Memphis 171
  • Notes 185
  • 9 - The Child and the State 189
  • Notes 194
  • II - The Structure and Effects of Welfare 197
  • 10 - The Structure of the American Welfare System 199
  • Notes 215
  • 11 - Behavioral Effects from Welfare 219
  • Notes 226
  • 12 - Reform 231
  • Notes 235
  • 13 - Welfare Policy: Point and Counterpoint 237
  • Notes 266
  • Bibliography 273
  • Index 289
  • About the Editor and Contributors 295
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