Welfare generally refers to government support programs, and can be defined in several ways. It is normally considered the variety of public programs available to help those at lower income levels, including programs such as cash assistance, food stamps, childcare assistance, housing programs, and medical assistance (Medicaid). It is often conceived of more specifically as government cash assistance to the poor.

Public welfare programs in the United States have a history of fraught relationships with women. The first major programs coming about in the early 20th century were exclusive, limited only to white, widowed mothers, otherwise considered the “deserving” poor. Earlier programs were equally selective, but were individually run by states and local charities. Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was formally established in 1935 ...

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