The Influence of Attitudes on Welfare Policy in America: The Effect of Socioeconomic Factors on Attitudes Toward Social Welfare

Tina A. Schaefer, The College of Wooster


An understanding of the present social welfare system in America can be obtained through a historical analysis of the early forms of welfare and the changes they have undergone. A knowledge of this evolution is essential because some of the fundamental premises of past welfare systems continue to underlie the most basic forms of welfare policy which have been implemented into the American system. Historically, the policies which have been developed reflect societal attitudes and values. However, such an analysis indicates that attitudes toward public assistance recipients have not changed greatly. Codes that recognize the value of the individual responsibility and effort have influenced the evolution of public assistance policies. Individualistic ideologies have been perpetuated through socialization which takes place in the social order, facilitating the maintenance of the status quo. Therefore, socioeconomic status would have an impact on attitudes toward public assistance. A Marxian projection would agree that socioeconomic status is related to welfare attitudes; proposing that the higher the socioeconomic status, the greater the opposition to welfare. However, this relationship proves to be inaccurate in a modified, capitalist system. There is little difference in attitudes toward welfare relative to socioeconomic status, making the possibility of a welfare policy developed upon class consciousness unfeasible. The opposition to social welfare, regardless of class, could have major repercussions on future social policy decisions in America.


© Copyright 1989 Tina A. Schaefer