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 have representation in government, the legislation enacted by the central government will reflect the values and expectations held by society. This essay will explore the history of welfare, how stereotypes and inequalities are maintained due to welfare, and ultimately how the reformation of welfare programs highlight shifting values and tensions within American society.
History of Welfare:
The concept of welfare is deeply rooted in human history, cropping up in various places, regardless of culture or race. This class of legislation, enacted on a state by state basis, existed outside federal jurisdiction, was known as “mothers’ pensions” and provided financial aid to widows to support their families (Hays, 2003). In 1935, as part of the New Deal legislation, the Social Security Act was created and provided a program known as “Aid to Families with Dependent Children.” This offered federal financial support for families who were living in poverty. The AFDC grew in scope until 1996, ultimately reaching a total spending of about $28 billion per year. As far as these laws were concerned, they were solely aimed at “family preservation” despite sometimes removing children from the custody of their parents, depending on...