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Social Insurance and Public Assistance in the Twentieth-Century United States: 2019 Presidential Address for the Economic History Association -- by Price V. Fishback

The growth of American governments in the twentieth century included large increases in funds for social insurance and public assistance. Social insurance has increased far more than public assistance, so “rise in the social insurance state” is a far better description of the century than “rise in the welfare state.” The United States has increased total spending in these areas as much or more as have European countries, but the U.S. spending has relied less heavily on government programs. The U.S. really has 51 different social welfare systems, and I develop estimates of these benefits across time and place and compare them to the poverty line, manufacturing earnings and benefits, state per capita incomes in the US, as well as GDP per capita in countries throughout the world.