MEASUREMENTS OF ADEQUACY OF WPA EMPLOYMENT
SOMBER AND unromantic as figures depicting the volume of WPA employment may be, there lies behind them a stirring drama of individual hope and despair, of national success and failure in providing jobs for needy workers. Opinions have varied widely as to the role of the WPA in this drama. At one extreme are those who have maintained that the job has been done too well. Others have held that the WPA has never even approximately met the need. Differences in appraisals arise, obviously, from differences in the philosophy of the appraisers as to who should be given WPA jobs, in their knowledge of existing needs, and in the yardsticks used to measure the extent to which these needs have or have not been met.
Estimates of the WPA's adequacy have depended upon whether the estimator believed that the federal government should provide no jobs at all for unemployed workers; or whether it should provide (a) a job for each unemployed individual; (b) enough jobs to maintain a level of employment sufficient to preserve the nation's economic equilibrium; (c) jobs for a relatively constant proportion of the unemployed; (d) a comparatively stable number of jobs--say three million--regardless of minor fluctuations in unemployment; (e) one job without respect to need, for each family having no employed member; (f) one job for each family believed to be in need which includes an employable member; or (g) one job for each such family which is not only in need, but is actually receiving relief. Since the WPA has never pretended to do more than is suggested by the last two of these standards, further discussion of adequacy will be restricted to these criteria.
Even if agreement could be reached as to the standard by which adequacy should be measured, estimates would still be only relative, because of the very rough nature of available data showing.