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History of Social Welfare in the United States


The establishment of the social welfare system in the United States of America was one of the most critical undertakings in the history of the country. The institution of social welfare dates back to a few centuries ago when Queen Elizabeth introduced it in fifteenth-century England. In essence, the true definition and perspective of looking at social welfare have undergone a profound evolution. Authors have come up with new and better ways of defining this term.

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In the 1900s, social welfare was defined by undertakings, policies, and activities that were organized to solve social problems. However, in the 1950s, authors and scholars started viewing social welfare as a more broad and enduring element that was used to help people out of their problems. Eventually, scholars started viewing social welfare as an existence of the right order in the society whereby people relate peacefully to enable human habitation and development. Overall, these definitions have played a crucial role in the study of social welfare.

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Social welfare is an old human institution that dates back several centuries ago, and it has remained operational ever since. The first instance of social welfare occurred in 1601 when Queen Elizabeth formulated the Poor Law in England. The 1601 law provided for the collection of taxes from the employed people in order to get funds that were used to provide aid to the poor and unemployed people in society. The English Law marked the first instance when the world experienced social welfare. However, in America, a clear stipulation was experienced in the 1900s when the government sought to protect and uphold the social interest of the public (Stritt, 2014).

During this period, local authorities and individual institutions joined hands to provide charitable assistance to the poor and unemployed people in the country. This undertaking led to the conception of the famous ‘public relief.’ Industrialization and urbanization in America led to increased numbers of poor people, and the involved welfare personnel could not afford to offer more assistance. By 1926, 40 states had implemented the social welfare initiative, especially for the mothers who were bringing up needy children (Jacobs, 2013).

In some states, the elderly were offered financial support. In 1932 after the great depression hit America, the government bailed out the local authorities by enacting the Emergency Relief and Construction Act. This was the starting point of the well-defined social welfare act that helped to set up a reliable and established system.

Social welfare was set up with the view of solving a myriad of problems. Social welfare was primarily started to help the needy and the poor to sustain their individual lives. In addition, the primary goal when instituting social welfare was the provision of basic needs to the men and women who were unemployed. In 1935, the enactment of the Social Security Act was meant to reinstate the original living conditions that existed before the depression (Gilbert, 2014). In addition, social welfare was meant to rebuild the core values of the American people. Consequently, it can be concluded that the establishment of social welfare aimed to help the poor, needy, elderly, and young people in society.

Various entities and organizations helped to set up the social welfare program in the United States of America. The local government played a critical role in the implementation of this program. In addition, the local governments implemented this program with the help of private organizations. These organizations provided financial support to the local governments willingly and patriotically (Stritt, 2014). The involvement of President Herbert Hoover was crucial to the establishment of social welfare in the country.

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He was the main personality behind the stipulation and implementation of the Emergency Relief and Construction Act that was conceived in 1932. Furthermore, President Franklin Roosevelt implemented the Federal Emergency Relief Act that was implemented in 1933 (David, 2014). With respect to this program, about $250 million was released for social welfare uses. Social welfare is a collaborative effort that involved the contributions of several individuals (Moore, 2013).


David, S. (2014). Protecting Civil Rights in the Shadows. Yale Law Journal, 123, 2806-2836.

Gilbert, M. (2014). Judicial Independence and Social Welfare. Michigan Law Review, 112(4), 575-625.

Jacobs, M. (2013). Remembering the Forgotten Child in the American Indian Child Welfare Crisis of the 1960s and 1970s. American Indian Quarterly, 37(1-2), 136-159.

Moore, L. (2013). Women and the Emergence of NAACP. Journal of Social Work Education, 49, 476-489.

Stritt, S. (2014). The First Faith-Based Movement for the Religious Roots of Social.

Progressivism in America (1880-1912) in Historical Perspective. Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 41(1), 77-101.

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