In This Article Social Security in the United States (OASDHI)

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Data Sources
  • Journals
  • Background
  • Responses to the Depression
  • Committee on Economic Security
  • Social Security
  • Amendments of 1939
  • War Years
  • Amendments of 1950
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  • Advisory Council on Financing of 1957–1959
  • Medicare and Medicaid
  • Amendments of 1972
  • Commission and Amendments of 1983
  • Advisory Council of 1994–1996
  • White House Conference on Social Security
  • George W. Bush and Private Accounts
  • People of Color and Social Security
  • Women
  • Young People
  • Current Status
  • Conservative Perspectives
  • Liberal Perspectives

Social Work Social Security in the United States (OASDHI)
by
Stephen H. Gorin
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0147

Introduction

Social Security is the fundamental social welfare program in the United States. Enacted in 1935 and amended several times, Social Security provides services and support to a wide range of individuals. This entry will focus on the background to, and the basic structure of, the act—Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program (OASDI)—and Medicare, which was enacted as Title XVIII of Social Security in 1965. It also includes an examination of the current status of the program and the often heated debate over the future of Social Security.

General Overviews

Discussion of the history of social insurance and Social Security can be found in a wide range of sources, including works by social workers, sociologists, economists, political scientists, and others. Altman 2005 provides an excellent overview of Social Security from the early 1900s through 2005. Baker and Weisbrot 1999 provides a critique of efforts to demonstrate Social Security was in serious crisis and required fundamental restructuring. Berkowitz 1995 examines the life of Wilbur Cohen, who had close ties to social work, and was perhaps the leading figure in the development of Social Security between 1935 and 1965. Abe Bortz traces the origins and emergence of Social Security from the English Poor Laws through the New Deal (Historical Development of the Social Security Act). Kingson 2008 presents from a social work perspective a succinct overview of the development and structure of Social Security. Quadagno 1988 examines the enactment and development of Social Security in relation to conflict between labor and business groups over old age pensions. As part of a special collection, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has provided a detailed discussion of the origins and emergence of Social Security and a review of key developments and changes in the program through 2009 (Historical Background and Development of Social Security). Brown, et al. 2009 is an edited book of readings that addresses Social Security in light of changing demographic, economic, and other trends.

  • Altman, Nancy J. 2005. The battle for social security: From FDR’s vision to Bush’s gamble. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

    E-mail Citation »

    Excellent discussion of the origins of, and the debate over, Social Security through George W. Bush’s effort to create private accounts.

  • Baker, Dean, and Mark Weisbrot. 1999. Social Security: The phony crisis. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    In-depth discussion and criticism of “misunderstandings” about the status of Social Security.

  • Berkowitz, Edward D. 1995. Mr. Social Security: The life of Wilbur J. Cohen. Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas.

    E-mail Citation »

    Examination of the life of Wilbur Cohen, a leading figure in the development of Social Security between 1935 and 1965.

  • Bortz, Abe. Historical Development of the Social Security Act. US Social Security Administration.

    E-mail Citation »

    Valuable overview of the background to, and development of, Social Security through Medicare by the program’s first historian.

  • Brown, Jeffrey R., Jeffrey Liebman, and David A. Wise. 2009. Social Security policy in a changing environment. National Bureau of Economic Research.

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    Discussion from a range of perspectives of Social Security in light of changing demographic, economic, and other trends.

  • Historical Background and Development of Social Security. Social Security Online.

    E-mail Citation »

    Valuable overview of and background to the development of Social Security.

  • Kingson, Eric R. 2008. Social Security program. In The encyclopedia of social work. 20th ed. Vol. 4. Edited by Terry Mizrachi and Larry E. Davis, 89–97. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    Overview from a social work perspective by a leading expert on Social Security.

  • Quadagno, Jill S. 1988. The transformation of old age security: Class and politics in the American welfare state. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    Insightful theoretical and historical discussion by a leading analyst of the enactment of Social Security.

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