In this piece, Jennifer Roback Morse extends the idea of the welfare state to areas such as social security. Morse contends that the rise of social security has caused parents to neglect the raising of their children, which in turn causes their children to neglect them in their old age. This pattern results in the breakdown of the family by furthering reliance on...
The Welfare State and the Family
The beginning of the modern American welfare state is generally associated with the War on Poverty and the Great Society programs initiated by President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s. That said, many of President Johnson's programs constituted an expansion of smaller welfare programs established under President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression.
The most often cited rationale for welfare is to provide a small amount of additional assistance to families in times of economic hardship. Yet, according to welfare opponents, beneficiaries of these programs often become so dependent upon handouts, that they avoid work, forgo marriage, and eschew family planning. The welfare state is believed to have an especially negative influence on males, encouraging them to discount their role as family providers. Opponents of welfare often point to the decided increase in marriage and employment, and the decrease in illegitimate births and poverty after the enactment of the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 (PRWORA) as proof that the welfare state has adverse effects on the family.
On the other hand, those who support welfare suggest that its reform has actually caused many families to experience greater hardships. Proponents believe that it is cruel and uncompassionate to take away assistance from impoverished, single mothers who are struggling to provide their children with proper food, clothing, and care. Those opposed to welfare reform also believe that family poverty levels have been on the rise since 1996, and as such, suggest that the removal of government aid causes further harm to America's lowest income class.
This library section looks at the influence of various welfare programs on American families. However, it also delves into the relationship between the family and less visible aspects of the welfare state, such as adoption, social security, and the tax burden the welfare state places upon American families.
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