A History of Federal Child Antipoverty and Health Policy in the United States Since 1900

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Abstract— America’s political leaders, parents, social thinkers, educators, and child-development and child-welfare professionals have long emphasized society’s responsibility to children, but these efforts assumed new prominence around 1900. The federal government has supported and provided services from health care to poverty alleviation and enforced a wide range of laws and regulations to enhance the well-being of Americans under age 21. The record of federal child policy implementation has been mixed. Despite this, political and fiscal impediments, and conflicting social science research and popular values, Washington still needs to play a leadership role in improving the well-being of America’s children and families. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said in 1935: “It must not for a moment be forgotten that the core of any social plan must be the child.”

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... policies (Pierson, 1995;Rose & Baumgartner, 2013). Yet although evidence of psychology's role in national policy can be illustrated by case study and anecdotal evidence (Blank & Blum, 1997;Silver & Silver, 2006;Yarrow, 2011;Zigler & Styfco, 2010), relatively few quantitative assessments of how psychological knowledge is used in federal policymaking exist. To better quantify how federal legislators have leveraged psychology in antipoverty policy, we present findings from a large-scale review of bills introduced to the U.S. Congress (hereafter, "Congress") over the last two decades. ...
... Although many national policies seek to reduce poverty or mitigate its effects (Bronfenbrenner, 1986;Currie & Almond, 2011;Edin & Kissane, 2010;Yarrow, 2011), key examples exist of how psychology has informed or been leveraged in legislative efforts to combat poverty. For instance, the War on Poverty was launched in 1964 as a ...
... Although the field of psychology's role in the War on Poverty during the 1960s has been relatively well documented via a series of case studies (Yarrow, 2011;Zigler & Styfco, 2010), its role in more recent decades is not well quantified. Little is known about the frequency with which the field of psychology directly informs legislative provisions that seek to reduce poverty or the likelihood that such bills are supported by legislators. ...
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Increasing efforts are being undertaken to understand how to improve the use of research evidence in policy settings. In particular, growing efforts to understand the use of research in legislative contexts. Although high-profile examples of psychology's contributions to public policy exist-particularly around antipoverty legislation-little systematic review has quantified how the field has informed federal policy across time. Recognizing the importance of exploring psychology's use in policymaking, we provide an overview of psychology's presence in federal antipoverty legislation over the last 2 decades by reviewing the over 6,000 antipoverty bills introduced to the U.S. Congress since 1993 for mentions of psychology. Further, to explore how psychology's contributions are related to policymakers' attributions about the causes of poverty, their public statements and voting behavior is considered. Key gaps in our scientific knowledge for informing poverty-related policy are identified. Opportunities to enhance the relevance of psychology in poverty reduction efforts, including the evidence-based policy movement, are described. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).
... For example, in the early 1900s many US children worked in agriculture, mines, and textile factories and did so capably, despite the ethical blight and unconscionable danger of such work. 4 In more recent times, expectations of what children should be doing and should be capable of are wildly different. Now, children do not work but attend school instead and learn things that were unimaginable 100 years ago. ...
... For instance, US child policy rhetoric has shifted from arguments drawing on notions of rights, obligations, and compassion to economic arguments that leverage cost/benefit calculus [67]. This rhetorical shift has both political and sociocultural roots, including declining religiosity, the rising hegemony of empirical evidence in policymaking, and fluctuating fiscal pressures [68]. Evidence suggests there has been a gradual overall rise in the use of economic reasoning to frame and justify child policy, and a corollary decrease in moralistic reasoning [2]. ...
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Background: Allusions to the uniqueness and value of childhood abound in academic, lay, and policy discourse. However, little clarity exists on the values that guide child health and social policy-making. We review extant academic literature on the normative dimensions of child health and social policy to provide foundations for the development of child-focused public policies. Methods: We conducted a critical interpretive synthesis of academic literature on the normative dimensions of child health and social policy-making. We employed a social constructivist lens to interpret emergent themes. Political theory on the social construction of target populations served as a bridge between sociologies of childhood and public policy analysis. Results: Our database searches returned 14,658 unique articles; full text review yielded 72 relevant articles. Purposive sampling of relevant literature complemented our electronic searches, adding 51 original articles, for a total of 123 articles. Our analysis of the literature reveals three central themes: potential, rights, and risk. These themes retain relevance in diverse policy domains. A core set of foundational concepts also cuts across disciplines: well-being, participation, and best interests of the child inform debate on the moral and legal dimensions of a gamut of child social policies. Finally, a meta-theme of embedding encompasses the pervasive issue of a child's place, in the family and in society, which is at the heart of much social theory and applied analysis on children and childhood. Conclusions: Foundational understanding of the moral language and dominant policy frames applied to children can enrich analyses of social policies for children. Most societies paint children as potent, vulnerable, entitled, and embedded. It is the admixture of these elements in particular policy spheres, across distinct places and times, that often determines the form of a given policy and societal reactions to it. Subsequent work in this area will need to detail the degree and impact of variance in the values mix attached to children across sociocultural contexts and investigate tensions between what are and what ought to be the values that guide social policy development for children.
... WHO, 2011) and experts at the CDC have developed a resource to help address the social determinants of health with recommendations on policy initiatives (Brennan Ramirez, Baker, Metzler, & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008). In addition, previous scholars in the mental health field have provided insight into the role of psychology in policymaking (Crowley, Supplee, Scott, & Brooks-Gunn, 2019;Silver & Silver, 2006;Yarrow, 2011). Accessing the expertise of scholars, from within and outside of APA, who are familiar with the factors that make policymaking successful, will continue to strengthen APA's role in advocacy and policymaking for more inclusive mental health initiatives. ...
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The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the norms, patterns, and power structures in the United States that privilege certain groups of people over others. This manuscript describes COVID-19 as an unprecedented catalyst for social transformation that underscores the need for multi-level and cross-sectoral solutions to address systemic changes to improve health equity for all. The authors propose that the American Psychological Association and its membership can initiate systemic change, in part, by: (a) supporting mutual aid organizations that prioritize the needs of vulnerable communities; (b) leveraging the efforts and strides APA psychologists have already made within the association, in the profession, and in policymaking to attend to the health equity and the needs of marginalized communities; (c) building capacity for collaboration between a broad coalition of health associations, health experts, and policymakers to address the physio-psycho-socioeconomic needs of disadvantaged communities, and (d) increasing APA’s participation in the formulation and implementation of an advocacy agenda that prioritizes the physical and psychological health of the communities whose lives are most endangered by COVID-19.
The long era of liberal reform that began with the Progressive movement of the early twentieth century and continued with the New Deal, culminated in the 1960s with Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. Inspired by the example of his mentor, Franklin Roosevelt, Johnson sought to extend the agenda of the New Deal beyond the realm of economic security to civil rights, housing, education, and health care. In the end, however, his bold ambitions for a Great Society, initiated against the backdrop of an increasingly costly and divisive war, fueled a conservative backlash and undermined faith in liberalism itself. In this volume of original essays, a distinguished group of scholars and activists reassess the mixed legacy of this third major reform period of the last century. They examine not only the policies and programs that were part of LBJ's Great Society, but also the underlying ideological and political shifts that changed the nature of liberalism. Some of the essays focus on Lyndon Johnson himself and the institution of the modern presidency, others on specific reform measures, and still others on the impact of these initiatives in the decades that followed. Perspectives, methodologies, and conclusions differ, yet all of the contributors agree that the Great Society represented an important chapter in the story of the American republic and its ongoing struggle to reconcile the power of the state with the rights of individuals-a struggle that has continued into the twenty-first century. In addition to the editors, contributors include Henry J. Abraham, Brian Balogh, Rosalyn Baxandall, Edward Berkowitz, Eileen Boris, Richard A. Cloward, Hugh Davis Graham, Hugh Heclo, Frederick Hess, William E. Leuchtenburg, Nelson Lichtenstein, Patrick McGuinn, Wilson Carey McWilliams, R. Shep Melnick, Frances Fox Piven, and David M. Shribman. Copyright © 2005 by University of Massachusetts Press. All rights reserved.
Beginning more than 2,500 years ago, from all quarters of the Greek world men thronged every four years to the sacred grove of Olympia, under the shadow of Mount Cronus, to compete in the most famous athletic contests of history—the Olympian games. During the contest a sacred truce was observed among all the states of Greece as the best athletes of the Western world competed in boxing and foot races, wrestling and chariot races for the wreath of wild olive which was the prize of victory. When the winners returned to their home cities to lay the Olympian crowns in the chief temples they were greeted as heroes and received rich rewards. For the Greeks prized physical excellence and athletic skills among man's great goals and among the prime foundations of a vigorous state. Thus the same civilizations which produced some of our highest achievements of philosophy and drama, government and art, also gave us a belief in the importance of physical soundness which has become a part of Western tradition; from the mens sana in corpore sano of the Romans to the British belief that the playing fields of Eton brought victory on the battlefields of Europe. This knowledge, the knowledge that the physical well-being of the citizen is an important foundation for the vigor and vitality of all the activities of the nation, is as old as Western civilization itself. But it is a knowledge which today, in America, we are in danger of forgetting. The first indication of a decline in the physical strength and ability of young Americans became apparent among United States soldiers in the early stages of the Korean War. The second came when figures were released showing that almost one out of every two young Americans was being rejected by Selective Service as mentally, morally or physically unfit. But the most startling demonstration of the general physical decline of American youth came when Dr. Hans Kraus and Dr. Sonja Weber revealed the results of 15 years of research centering in the Posture Clinic of New York's Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital—results of physical fitness tests given to 4,264 children in this country and 2,870 children in Austria, Italy and Switzerland. The findings showed that despite our unparalleled standard of living, despite our good food and our many playgrounds, despite our emphasis on school athletics, American youth lagged far behind Europeans in physical fitness. Six tests for muscular strength and flexibility were given; 57.9% of the American children failed one or more of these tests, while only 8.
The critical task facing the Children's Bureau in its early days was the establishment of an institution that could survive recurring appropriation crises. How Julia Lathrop, the first woman bureau chief in the federal government, defined its mission, selected operating goals from its statutory functions, and utilized a potent constituency network is the subject of this paper.
The background, general design and basic findings of a series of large-scale, government-sponsored, income maintenance experiments are described. Attention is given to the use of findings in connection with congressional debate over welfare reform. The findings have apparently fed political and ideological resistance to proposals for a national guaranteed income program for the poor. While we see the findings as bearing on the outcome of such a program, we suggest that much more important are largely unexamined systemic obstacles to a guaranteed income program.
This report includes the meeting highlights from a policy seminar which looked at successful models of state action taken by Illinois, Maryland, and North Carolina to reduce the incidence of adolescent pregnancy. Shirley Randolph, Associate Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, described the Illinois initiative called Parents Too Soon, which serves as a coordinating agency for 125 community-based organizations. Bronwyn Mayden, Executive Director of the Governor's Council on Adolescent Pregnancy in Maryland, provided the history and background of the council, which directs Maryland's joint executive/legislative initiative to establish a Maryland Task Force on Adolescent Pregnancy. A successful public/private fundraising campaign to produce television "spot" commercials directed toward adolescents initiated by the council, the Campaign for Our Children, is described. Barbara Ziegler, Executive Director of the Mecklenburg Council on Adolescent Pregnancy and founding member of the North Carolina Coalition on Adolescent Pregnancy describes the state's initiative which, unlike Illinois and Maryland, is largely centered in the private sector. Ongoing efforts discussed include training local representatives, publishing a quarterly newsletter, and producing brochures and other related materials. Each panelist responded to a question about the role of the federal government in the area of adolescent pregnancy. The report is followed by a background briefing report which covers the following topics: (1) goals of teenage pregnancy policy; (2) inventories of federal programs related to teenage pregnancy and early childbearing; (3) teenage pregnancy legislation in the 101st Congress; (4) trends in state policy; (5) three exemplary state initiatives; (6) what the federal government can do to help; and (7) a summary listing of federal programs. (LLL)
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