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The decision to exclude agricultural and domestic workers from the 1935 Social Security Act.

Authors
  • DeWitt, Larry
Type
Published Article
Journal
Social security bulletin
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2010
Volume
70
Issue
4
Pages
49–68
Identifiers
PMID: 21261169
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

The Social Security Act of 1935 excluded from coverage about half the workers in the American economy. Among the excluded groups were agricultural and domestic workers-a large percentage of whom were African Americans. This has led some scholars to conclude that policymakers in 1935 deliberately excluded African Americans from the Social Security system because of prevailing racial biases during that period. This article examines both the logic of this thesis and the available empirical evidence on the origins of the coverage exclusions. The author concludes that the racial-bias thesis is both conceptually flawed and unsupported by the existing empirical evidence. The exclusion of agricultural and domestic workers from the early program was due to considerations of administrative feasibility involving tax-collection procedures. The author finds no evidence of any other policy motive involving racial bias.

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