Welfare Reforms and Shifting Attitudes Toward Welfare

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Sociological Review of Flat Broke With Children What is welfare? At its most basal form, the concept of welfare is the idea that a central governing body or state will provide a basic level of support for its poorest members or citizens through programs at the expense of society at large. Examples of welfare can be traced all the way back to the Ancient Roman Empire, where measures of grain were provided to citizens who could not afford to purchase any for themselves. However, the roots of modern welfare in the United States can be traced back to legislation regarding mothers’ pensions, first enacted in 1911. By 1935, these welfare programs were extended to a greater proportion of the population through the Social Security Act bundled in the New Deal legislation, and relabeled as “Aid to Families with Dependent Children” (AFDC). This program existed from 1935 to 1996, eventually becoming a major component of the Social Security Act. Under the Personal Responsibility and Work Act in 1996, AFDC was overhauled and the “Temporary Assistance to Needy Families” (TANF) program took over as its successor. From a sociological perspective, these welfare programs present an extremely interesting case study in shifting American values from the early 20th century to the early 21st century. The sum of the political, social and legal considerations of these programs also helps to explore several sociological issues and inequalities which are endemic in American society to this day. These considerations, which range in scope from the lives of single mothers living below the poverty line, to broad divides in attitudes across cultural lines, shape and maintain the behavior and society of the United States. In a democracy, since individuals ha... ... middle of paper ... ... mutually exclusive (Hays, 2003). At the end of the day, draconian doctrine is not necessarily the best policy – indeed a combination of support for single women may prove to be the best approach. However, the costs to society of a combined approach will be larger, and as a society, we must be willing to bear the load. Hopefully, with historical context, knowledge of the wider societal and cultural interactions, and an understanding of effects that these combined forces have upon individuals, an effective solution to fixing the widespread inequalities which are prevalent in society today will be able to be obtained. Welfare reform has not reached its end; we are merely in the middle of a transition period, and many more steps exist before poverty can be fully eradicated. Bibliography Hays, S. (2003). Flat Broke With Children. New York: Oxford University Press.
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