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Rutgers University Libraries

Contemporary Social Welfare Policies: The 1930s to Today

This guide focuses on resources that you can use when seeking information on social welfare policies and issues since the 1930s.

Stuff You Can Use

Web sites, articles, historical documents, books, etc.--all kinds of scholarly resources relating to the history of social welfare policy from the 1930s to the present.


Platt, Anthony M. and Cooreman, Jenifer L. " A Multicultural Chronology of Welfare Policy and Social Work in the United States," Social Justice 28(1), Spring 2001, 91-137.
"This chronology is designed to introduce future social workers to significant events, policies, people, and publications in the history of welfare policy and social work in the United States...Issues of race and racism, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality are central to the chronology's perspective." Includes a extensive bibliography.
Off-Campus Link Restricted Access

Social Welfare Policy: How We Got Here

Depression, New Deal, and World War II
1950s and 1960s
1970s and 1980s
The 90s and Beyond

Depression, New Deal, and World War II

The Historical Development of the Social Security Act
By Dr. Abe Bortz, the first historian of the Social Security Administration. Overview of social policy developments from the Elizabethan Poor Laws to the passage of the Social Security Act of 1935.
Why Social Security?
Booklet published by the Social Security Board in 1937 to explain the rationale underlying the new Social Security program.
Survey Graphic
Survey Graphic began publication in 1921 as a companion to The Survey, the premier social work journal in the 1920s. Written in a style that was accessible to the general public, Survey Graphic focused on important social issues such as race, housing, labor, unemployment, education and healthcare, and had considerable influence on public policy.
Dana Library has volumes 16-37, 1929-1948, of Survey Graphic downstairs in the Lower Level (Shelved by Title).
Volumes 22 to 37 (1933-1948) of the Survey Graphic are available online from the Internet Archive.
Selections from Survey Graphic are also available at the following sites:
New Deal Network
Virtual library of over 20,000 photographs, political cartoons, and texts (articles, speeches, letters, and other documents). Includes a Document Library organized by topic, a New Deal Photo Gallery, selections of the press conferences of the various New Deal Work Relief agencies, and a Labor in the 1930s Bibliography.
"World War II and the Expansion of Government in America,"
Larry G. Gerber. National Forum 75(4), Fall 1995, 30-33.
Essay on the impact of World War II on the growth of the federal government, and its new iniatives in the areas of health, education, welfare, and civil rights.
Off-Campus Access Rutgers-restricted Access
"Experimental Social Policymaking During World War II: The United Service Organizations (USO) and American War-Community Services (AWCS),"
Gretchen Knapp. Journal of Policy History 12(3), 2000, 321-338.
Off-Campus Access Rutgers-restricted Access

The 1950s and 1960s

"The Politics of Motherhood: The Restriction of Poor Mothers' Welfare Rights in the United States, 1949-1960,"
Ellen Reese. Social Politics 8(1), 2001, pp.65-112.
Off-Campus Access Rutgers-restricted Access
Proposal for a Nationwide War on the Sources of Poverty
Lyndon B. Johnson's Special Message to Congress, March 16, 1964. From the Modern History Sourcebook.
The War on Poverty
Overview. Kent B. Germany, the University of Virginia.
"Power to the People: An Assessment of the Community Action and Model Cities Experience,"
Robert A. Aleshire. Public Administration Review 32 (Special Issue), September 1972, 428-443. Available?
"Lyndon Johnson, Community Action, and the Management of the Administrative State,"
R.M. Flanagan. Presidential Studies Quarterly 31 (4), December 2001, 585-608.
Off-Campus Access Rutgers-restricted Access
The War on Poverty: Unfinished Business
New England Journal of Public Policy, 20(1), Fall 2004/Winter 2005, Entire Issue.
Forty years later, the successes and failures of the War on Poverty.
Off-Campus Access Rutgers-restricted Access

The 1970s and 1980s

"Sectionalism and Policy Formation in the United States: President Carter's Welfare Initiatives,"
Desmond King. British Journal of Political Science 26(3), July 1996, 337-367.
Off-Campus Access Rutgers-restricted Access
"U.S. Social Welfare Policy: The Reagan Record and Legacy,
John O'Connor. Journal of Social Policy 27(1), January 1998, 37-61.
Off-Campus Access
"Ronald Reagan and the Commitment of the Mentally Ill: Capital, Interest Groups, and the Eclipse of Social Policy,"
Alexander R. Thomas. Electronic Journal of Sociology, 1998.
The Reagan Record: An Assessment of America's Changing Domestic Priorities.
Edited by John L. Palmer and Isabel V. Sawhill. Cambridge, Mass., Ballinger Pub., 1984. Available?

The 90s and Beyond

Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996: Summary of Provisions. August 1996.
From the National "Association of Social Workers.
Alan Weil and Kenneth Finegold. IN Welfare Reform: The Next Act. Washington, D.C., Urban Institute Press, 2002.
Assessing the New Federalism
For over a decade this Urban Institute policy center tracked "how children and families are faring and how program structure, financing, and administration are changing as the federal government transfers authority for health and social welfare programs to states." The ANF project has changed focus to become Low Income Working Families project, with a new emphasize on "the private and public sector context for families' success or failure." You can browse reports by issues, sectors, places, or affected populations.
Effects of Welfare Reform on Vocational Education and Training.
Dhaval M. Dave. et al. NBER Working Paper no. 16659. January 2011.
"This study estimates the effects of welfare reform on an important source of human capital acquisition among women at risk for relying on welfare: vocational education and training."
"Introduction: As the Dust Settles: Welfare Reform and Rural America,"
Leslie A. Whitener, Bruce A. Weber, and Greg J. Duncan. IN Rural Dimensions of Welfare Reform. Kalamazoo, MI, 2002.
The Obama Agenda
The Obama Administration's position on the social and political issues facing the U.S.