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Social Insurance

Social Insurance
America’s Neglected Heritage and Contested Future

October 2013 | 328 pages | CQ Press

What has America done to protect its citizens from life-changing but common risks such as death of a family breadwinner, ill health, disability, involuntary unemployment, outliving retirement savings, and birth into a poor family? Each, in its own way, burdens—and possibly devastates—unlucky individuals and families both emotionally and financially. It is the rare life that is untouched by one or more of these six threats. How do our current policies affect taxation, spending, and the economy, as well as prospects for individual lives? What more might these policies do to protect Americans?

Rich in stories, data, and analysis, Social Insurance provides a strong intellectual foundation for understanding the history, economics, politics, and philosophy of America’s most important social insurance programs. This insightful work provides a unifying vision of these programs’ purposes and reminds us, amidst the confusing and often apocalyptic rhetoric, why we have the programs and policies we do, while arguing for reforms that preserve and enhance the protections in place.

Part 1: American Social Insurance
1. Economic Risks and Social Insurance Realities
2. Assessment of the Six Threats to Family Income
3. Philosophies, Policies and Public Budgets
4. The Historical Development of American Social Insurance and its Associated Programs
Part II: The State of American Protections Against the Threats
5. The Threat of Birth into a Poor Family
6. The Threat of Early Death of a Family Breadwinner
7. The Threat of Ill-Health
8. The Threat of Involuntary Employment
9. The Threat of Disability
10. The Threat of Outliving One’s Savings
Part III: Thinking About the Design of Income Security Programs and Their Reform
11. Accomplishments and Limitations
12. Social Insurance, Markets and “Modernization”
Key features


  • The author team—well-known scholars and practitioners who have been researching, writing, and consulting on social insurance throughout their careers—bring their expertise and insight to bear on the ways America can both preserve and improve its social insurance programs.
  • In simple and crisp prose, the authors clearly explain each program, explore the relevant data, and effectively dispel the myths and misconceptions most Americans hold about social insurance programs—an antidote to today’s inflammatory political rhetoric.
  • For anyone—student, scholar, citizen—interested in the future of social insurance programs, this brief study asks and answers the fundamental questions of the purpose and promise of a country’s social welfare state.

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