Public Welfare

Often the object of a plan or action, public welfare describes a state of shared prosperity, a condition of collective well-being. An extended meaning refers also to a means of mutual caring, especially economic support. Government-funded programs to assist the poor and the excluded first became known as public welfare after World War I, displacing the notion of charity, which had accrued negative connotations. Differing values fuel debate about what constitutes public welfare and what actions promote and sustain it. Such questions form the subtext, if not the explicit focus, for much evaluative inquiry. Demand for assessments of welfare expenditures was an early catalyst for formalizing and professionalizing evaluation practice.

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