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In the United States, people generally use the term welfare to refer to social assistance programs that (1) provide cash assistance to poor people, (2) are based on a means-tested, or needs-based, formula, and (3) are funded from taxpayer dollars. This entry focuses on that popular understanding. But social welfare benefits are provided through other governmental social assistance programs, including publicly funded, needsbased programs of in-kind provision (for example, food assistance, medical care, or subsidized housing) as well as social insurance programs (for example, cash assistance and medical care) typically connected to labormarket experience and funded, in whole or in part, with employer or employee contributions. These additional programs provide a context within which to understand the political and legal debates regarding “welfare.”

Historical Background

The United ...

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