, Volume 52, Issue 3, pp 729–749 | Cite as

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

  • Robert A. MoffittEmail author


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.


Welfare Poverty Single mothers 



This article is a revised version of Presidential Address to the Population Association of America, Boston, May 2, 2014. I thank Andrew Cherlin, Kathryn Edin, and other participants of a seminar at the Hopkins Population Center, as well as Sandra Hofferth, Michael Rendall, and other participants of a seminar at the Maryland Population Research Center for comments. Nadia Diamond-Smith and Gwyn Pauley provided excellent research assistance. Financial support from the Russell Sage Foundation is also gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsThe Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

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