The American Welfare System: Origins, Structure, and Effects

By Howard Gensler | Go to book overview

9
The Child and the State

John Drew

The really first-rate attention paid to the health of all children in less free societies makes you wonder whether one of our cherished democratic freedoms is the right to maim our own children. When I brought this question to the attention of one of our judges, he said, "That may be the price we have to pay."

-- C. Henry Kempe, 1975584


9.1 Images and Implications

The study of the origins of mothers' pensions, the early forerunners of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), reveals a welfare program that arose in a manner very different from that presumed by most political theories of the welfare state. We see little evidence, for example, that mothers' pensions arose in reaction to the impersonal advancement of sociological and economic forces, or even out of the bitter battle between the rich and the poor. Instead, we have seen that mothers' pensions arose in an almost haphazard fashion as the last in a series of experiments designed to respond to the dependency created by an earlier public policy decision, the decision to enforce child labor laws.

It appears that the United States' first and later most controversial welfare program flourished in a climate that was hostile to welfare because its motivations lay in the historically prior and more important efforts to raise the family standards of the poor. Ironically we have seen that the middle-class reformers who despised child labor actually caused our first child welfare programs, often in spite of themselves and sometimes in opposition to their own antagonism to public support for widowed mothers.

Appreciating the role of middle-class child labor reformers in the making of the welfare state allows us to create a new vision of what "caused" at least some welfare programs and to rethink our view of the long-term social forces behind this development. In this chapter we will review how

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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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