For over seventy years, the Social Security Act (SSA) has provided the foundation for incremental expansion of national social insurance programs. Federal, state, and local governments have addressed gaps in the initial SSA provisions over time by developing a large array of programs targeted to specific populations and needs—from health and nutritional assistance for low-income pregnant women to public and subsidized housing, means-tested child care subsidies, and public preschool services. But the organization of work and family life has changed dramatically since the SSA was implemented in 1935. What are the implications for policy?
To understand the effects of the SSA on the evolution of social programs for working families, economists Marcia Meyers and Robert Plotnick organized a conference to examine the implications of the contemporary labor market, family organization, and demographic realities for the design of social policy. Conference papers were edited and published in a Russell Sage Foundation volume, Old Assumptions, New Realities: Ensuring Economic Security for Working Families in the 21st Century.