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The Winding Road to the Welfare State$
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George R. Boyer

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691178738

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691178738.001.0001

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Economic Insecurity and Social Policy

Economic Insecurity and Social Policy

(p.1) 1 Economic Insecurity and Social Policy
The Winding Road to the Welfare State

George R. Boyer

Princeton University Press

This introductory chapter provides an overview of economic insecurity. Economic insecurity can be defined as “the risk of economic loss faced by workers and households as they encounter the unpredictable events of life.” Insecurity is associated with income loss caused by “adverse events” such as unemployment and poor health; the negative impact of these shocks on households depends “on the surrounding institutions that regulate risk.” Indeed, the extent to which workers suffered financial distress from income shocks depended in large part on the social safety net—the existing institutions of public and private assistance. For nineteenth-century England and Wales, the main social welfare institution was the Poor Law, a system of public relief administered and financed at the local level. The Old Poor Law of 1795–1834 was “a welfare state in miniature,” relieving the elderly, widows, children, the sick, the disabled, and the unemployed and underemployed.

Keywords:   economic insecurity, economic loss, income loss, unemployment, financial distress, social safety net, social welfare, Poor Law, welfare state

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