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The Welfare State Nobody Knows:
Debunking Myths about U.S. Social Policy
Christopher Howard

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2007

Paperback | 2008 | $35.00 | £27.95 | ISBN: 9780691138336
280 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 2 line illus. 19 tables.
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The Welfare State Nobody Knows challenges a number of myths and half-truths about U.S. social policy. The American welfare state is supposed to be a pale imitation of "true" welfare states in Europe and Canada. Christopher Howard argues that the American welfare state is in fact larger, more popular, and more dynamic than commonly believed. Nevertheless, poverty and inequality remain high, and this book helps explain why so much effort accomplishes so little. One important reason is that the United States is adept at creating social programs that benefit the middle and upper-middle classes, but less successful in creating programs for those who need the most help.

This book is unusually broad in scope, analyzing the politics of social programs that are well known (such as Social Security and welfare) and less well known but still important (such as workers' compensation, home mortgage interest deduction, and the Americans with Disabilities Act). Although it emphasizes developments in recent decades, the book ranges across the entire twentieth century to identify patterns of policymaking. Methodologically, it weaves together quantitative and qualitative approaches in order to answer fundamental questions about the politics of U.S. social policy. Ambitious and timely, The Welfare State Nobody Knows asks us to rethink the influence of political parties, interest groups, public opinion, federalism, policy design, and race on the American welfare state.


"The Welfare State Nobody Knows goes a long way to fill in the gap left by previous research intended to quantify and categorize the American welfare state. Howard's combination of quantitative and qualitative tools is refreshing."--Carrie A. Ross, Journal of Children and Poverty

"The Welfare State Nobody Knows is without doubt an insightful, provocative, and wide-ranging book that should reach a broad scholarly audience. In the classroom and in scholarly publications, the book will undoubtedly stimulate lively debates about the nature, history, and politics of American social policy. All students of American social policy would benefit from reading it."--Daniel Béland, American Journal of Sociology


"Forget what you thought you knew. Christopher Howard takes us on an eye-opening, mind-expanding, entirely unexpected tour of the American welfare state. He describes a big, popular, sprawling, often Republican system that--thanks to cherished American institutions like federalism--does not work very well. Smart, wise, synthetic, funny, and iconoclastic--The Welfare State Nobody Knows is required reading for everybody who wants to know about welfare, about politics, or about the United States."--James A. Morone, author of Hellfire Nation and The Democratic Wish

"Christopher Howard is one of the most original and provocative students of the American welfare state--and this book splendidly sums up his insights. We learn that the American welfare state is larger and more dynamic than many have believed--yet, to this day, it fails to ameliorate inequality or poverty. Scholars and citizens alike will find that this book raises questions and provides answers nowhere else to be found."--Theda Skocpol, Harvard University

"Highly informative, original, and concise."--Martha Derthick, University of Virginia

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Table of Contents:

List of Boxes, Figures, and Tables vii
Acknowledgments ix
Acronyms xiii


PART I: Basic Tour 11

CHAPTER 1: She's So Unusual 13
CHAPTER 2: Tracks of My Tiers 27
CHAPTER 3: Twice in a Lifetime 53

PART II: New Horizons 71

CHAPTER 4: Ogres, Onions, and Layers (or, How Republicans Built the American Welfare State) 73
CHAPTER 5: Programs for the Poor Are Not Always Poor Programs 92
CHAPTER 6: Shaq Is Still Pretty Tall: Public Support for the American Welfare State 109
CHAPTER 7: The World According to AARP 125

PART III: Checkpoints and Roadblocks 151

CHAPTER 8: The American States: Laboratories of Democracy or Cryogenic Chambers? 153
CHAPTER 9: Race Still Matters 178
CHAPTER 10: Change versus Progress 192

Notes 211
Index 255

Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Christopher Howard:

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