The Deserving Poor, the Family, and the U.S. Welfare System

Demography. 2015 Jun;52(3):729-49. doi: 10.1007/s13524-015-0395-0.


Contrary to the popular view that the U.S. welfare system has been in a contractionary phase after the expansions of the welfare state in the 1960s, welfare spending resumed steady growth after a pause in the 1970s. However, although aggregate spending is higher than ever, there have been redistributions away from non-elderly and nondisabled families to families with older adults and to families with recipients of disability programs; from non-elderly, nondisabled single-parent families to married-parent families; and from the poorest families to those with higher incomes. These redistributions likely reflect long-standing, and perhaps increasing, conceptualizations by U.S. society of which poor are deserving and which are not.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Public Assistance / organization & administration*
  • Public Assistance / statistics & numerical data*
  • Public Assistance / trends
  • Single-Parent Family
  • Social Welfare / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Welfare / trends
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States