The depression of the thirties made provision of relief and social security in the United States a major function of government. Appropriations for relief became an important item of expenditures and a significant cause of the progressive increase in the national debt. The introduction of social insurance for unemployment and for old age brought new factors into the economic and social system. The assumption by the national government of the leading role in policy determination and of a substantial role in financing represented radical changes in the distribution of powers and responsibilities among the several levels of government.
In the late thirties it seemed highly desirable for the Brookings Institution to undertake a comprehensive study of relief and its administration. To further such a study the Institution received special grants-in-aid from Mr. Marshall Field, a member of its Board of Trustees, and later from The Maurice and Laura Falk Foundation of Pittsburgh. Neither Mr. Field nor the Falk Foundation is to be understood as approving or disapproving, by virtue of the grant, any statement or views expressed herein.
Part of the proceeds of these special gifts was immediately used to facilitate independent studies of relief made by co- operating agencies in a number of states. The states were selected in part because of the significance of their experience and in part because of the presence within their borders of a competent agency, members of which had evidenced great interest in the operation of relief programs and had had opportunity to observe and evaluate them.
The agreement of the Institution with these co-operators was that the resulting manuscripts were to remain their property with all rights of publication. The Institution was merely to have the privilege of examining and profiting from them, as it would from other writings by well-informed, competent students.