Larry E. Davis, John M. Wallace Jr., and Trina R. Williams Shanks
African Americans have been a part of the nation's history for nearly four hundred years. Although their history includes the forced imposition of chattel slavery, the strict enforcement of legal segregation, and a tenuous acceptance as equal citizens, African Americans have been, and continue to be, major contributors, creators, investors, and builders of America. In this article we summarize briefly the history of African Americans, we examine racial disparities in key indicators of social, mental, and physical well-being, and we highlight persistent strengths that can be built upon and areas that provide hope for the future. The challenge for social work is to simultaneously celebrate the historical successes and ongoing contributions of African Americans to this country while also recognizing the vestiges of structural racism and fighting for greater civil rights and social and economic justice.
This article discusses the African American social welfare system that began to develop during the early 20th century. This social welfare system, designed by African Americans to serve African Americans, addressed needs that were not being met by any other formal social services while the nascent social work profession was emerging. The myriad programs included settlement houses, boys and girls programs, training schools, and day nurseries. The women’s club movement played a critical role in the development of this social welfare system and provided much of the impetus for change and inclusion. Through formal organizations, including the National Urban League (NUL) and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), and an array of clubs and social groups, social services were extended to urban and rural communities throughout the United States.
Michael Sherraden, Lissa Johnson, Margaret M. Clancy, Sondra G. Beverly, Margaret Sherrard Sherraden, Mark Schreiner, William Elliot III, Trina R. Williams Shanks, Deborah Adams, Jami Curley, Jin Huang, Michal Grinstein-Weiss, Yunju Nam, Min Zhan, and Chang-Keun Han
Since 1991, a new policy discussion has arisen in the United States and other countries, focusing on building assets as a complement to traditional social policy based on income. In fact, asset-based policy already existed (and still exists) in the United States, with large public subsidies. But the policy is regressive, benefiting the rich far more than the poor. The goal should be a universal, progressive, and lifelong asset-based policy. One promising pathway may be Child Development Accounts beginning at birth, with greater public deposits for the poorest children. If every child had an account, then eventually this could grow into a universal public policy across the life course.
Social work often refers to economic justice but rarely considers what economic justice truly entails. This article specifies a number of areas that comprise economic justice issues and agendas. It also provides examples of how these issues are being advocated and many of the organizations that are involved in these campaigns. In addition, the text discusses the rationale for social work and social workers to be knowledgeable of and involved with economic justice initiatives. Six realms of economic justice are discussed, including inequality, workplace rights, living wage levels and minimum wages, immigrant rights in the workplace, community-labor partnerships, and social programs that support working families and individuals.
Different types of employment and unemployment are defined and the measurement of these concepts is illustrated. Unemployment trends among different groups in the United States are described and competing theories of the causes of unemployment are explained. Finally, policies relating to employment, including those focusing on labor supply, labor demand, and labor regulation, are discussed.
Tracy M. Soska
Housing, especially homeownership and affordable housing, remains essential to the American Dream but also among our most challenging social issues, particularly given the collapse of the housing market in the early 21st century. Housing and affordable housing are inextricably linked to both our national economic crisis and our wavering social policies. Housing is both symptomatic of and a catalyst for overarching social and economic issues, such as poverty, economic and educational inequality, and racial disparities, and it remains an unmet need for a significant portion of our population, such as the elderly, disabled, victims of abuse, those aging out of child welfare, veterans, ex-offenders, and others who encounter unique difficulties and lack of supportive services and service coordination. Advancing comprehensive and coordinated housing policies and programs remains important for social work and in the struggle for decent and affordable housing for all.
Food insecurity and hunger are serious problems around the world, with an estimated 870 million people chronically undernourished. The vast majority of these people—an estimated 14.9%—live in developing countries. Although federal food and nutrition assistance programs and the generally high standard of living in the United States have eliminated the more extreme forms of hunger found in developing countries, less severe but nonetheless serious forms of hunger and food insecurity affect millions of households. Food and nutrition programs require adequate funding, increased access, and further evaluation, but to achieve the goals of ending hunger and assuring food security for all, multisectoral strategies that address the macro-level determinants of food security are needed.
Carmen Monico, Karen Smith Rotabi, and Taghreed Abu Sarhan
International development, humanitarian aid, and relief are at the heart of international social work practice. They have evolved historically and globally; shaped by world markets, social and environmental forces, including natural disasters. Considering this context, the authors cluster relevant social-work theories and practices as (a) human rights perspectives, and (b) ecological, feminist, and cultural theories. They discuss both micro and macro practice, with an emphasis on the latter. Case studies are presented with the overlay of relevant international conventions, guidance, and international private law. A continuum of humanitarian assistance is presented considering different countries. Guatemala is a prominent example in addition to Haiti’s massive earthquake of 2010 with recent revelations of sexual abuse and exploitation by humanitarian aid workers, post-conflict community-based practices in Afghanistan, and the largest cross-border forced migration in modern history of Iraqi, and Syrian refugees with this second group being of particular concern given their mass displacement. Capacity building as related to social work training is emphasized. This entry concludes that much remains to be accomplished with regard to capacity building among humanitarian assistance organizations so that the principles and practice strategies of international social work are institutionalized.
Michael Sherraden, Li-Chen Cheng, Fred M. Ssewamala, Youngmi Kim, Vernon Loke, Li Zou, Gina Chowa, David Ansong, Lissa Johnson, YungSoo Lee, Michal Grinstein-Weiss, Margaret M. Clancy, Jin Huang, Sondra G. Beverly, Yunju Nam, and Chang-Keun Han
Child Development Accounts (CDAs) are subsidized savings or investment accounts to help people accumulate assets for developmental purposes and life course needs. They are envisioned as universal (everyone participates), progressive (greater subsidies for the poor), and potentially lifelong national policy. These features distinguish CDAs from most existing asset-building policies and programs around the world, which are typically regressive, giving greater benefits to the well-off. With policy innovation in recent years, several countries now have national CDA policies, and four states in the United States have statewide programs. Some of these are designed to be universal and progressive. Evidence indicates that true universality can be achieved, but only with automatic account opening and automatic deposits. In the absence of automatic features, advantaged families participate and benefit more. Today, momentum for universal and automatic features is gradually gaining traction and accelerating. At this stage in the emergence of inclusive asset-based policy, this is the most important development.
The International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW) is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) focused on advocacy, knowledge-building, and technical assistance projects in various areas of social development carried out at the country level and internationally. Created in 1928 in Paris to address the complexities and challenges of social work, the ICSW has evolved through the years to embrace the major issues of social development, becoming a global organization committed to improving human well-being. Establishing common ground on issues of international significance and acting with partners through its nine regional networks, ICSW represents national and local organizations in more than 70 countries throughout the world. Membership also includes major international organizations. By virtue of its constitution, it operates as a democratic and accountable organization.
Political ideologies shape public policy debates as well as the social policy strategies developed to address social problems. The clashes among these long-standing political traditions—conservatism, liberalism, radicalism—reflect fundamental and often irreconcilable differences regarding social, economic, and political life. Ideology also shapes theories of racial and gender inequality. These ideological perspectives and theories are compared for their views on several core issues that underpin social welfare provision, including human nature, need, the general welfare, social problems, and the role of government. The resulting distinctions provide social workers with a framework to more effectively assess contemporary social welfare policies.
Mark R. Rank
Poverty has been a subject of concern since the beginnings of social work. This entry reviews three key research areas. First, the extent and dynamics of poverty are examined, including the measurement of poverty, patterns of cross-sectional and comparative poverty rates, the longitudinal dynamics of poverty, and poverty as a life-course risk. Second, reasons for poverty are discussed. These are divided into individual versus structural level explanations. The concept of structural vulnerability is offered as a way of bridging key individual and structural determinants in order to better understand the existence of poverty. Third, strategies and solutions to poverty are briefly reviewed.
Karen Lyons and Nathalie Huegler
The term social exclusion achieved widespread use in Europe from the late twentieth century. Its value as a concept that is different from poverty, with universal relevance, has since been debated. It is used in Western literature about international development, and some authors have linked it to the notion of capabilities. However, it is not widely used in the social work vocabulary. Conversely, the notion of social inclusion has gained in usage and application. This links with values that underlie promotion of empowerment and participation, whether of individuals, groups, or communities. Both terms are inextricably linked to the realities of inequalities within and between societies and to the principles of human rights and social justice that feature in the international definition of social work.
Janet L. Finn and Maxine Jacobson
This entry examines the concept of social justice and its significance as a core value of social work. Diverse conceptualizations of social justice and their historical and philosophical underpinnings are examined. The influence of John Rawls' perspectives on social justice is addressed as are alternative conceptualizations, such as the capabilities perspective. The roots of social justice are traced through social work history, from the Settlement House Movement to the Rank and Film Movement, Civil Rights Movement, and contemporary struggles in the context of globalization. Challenges for social justice-oriented practice in the 21st century are address. The discussion concludes with concrete example of ways in which social workers are translating principles of social justice into concrete practices.
John M. Herrick
Social policy is how a society responds to social problems. Any government enactment that affects the well-being of people, including laws, regulations, executive orders, and court decisions, is a social policy. In the United States, with its federal tradition of shared government, social policies are made by governments at many levels—local, state, and national. A broad view of social policy recognizes that corporations and both nonprofit and for-profit social-service agencies also develop policies that affect customers and those they serve and therefore have social implications. Social policies affect society and human behavior, and their importance for social-work practice has long been understood by the social-work profession. Modern social welfare policies, which respond to basic human needs such as health care, housing food, and employment, have evolved since their introduction during the New Deal of the 1930s as responses to the Great Depression. In the aftermath of the recent “Great Recession” that began in 2006, the nation has once again experienced the kinds of social problems that led to the creation of innovative social welfare policies in the 1930s. How policy makers respond to human needs depends on who has the power to make policy and how they conceptualize human needs and the most effective ways to respond to them. In the early 21st century, the idea that the state should guarantee the welfare and well-being of its citizens through progressive welfare state policies and services has few adherents among policy makers. The complex social problems resulting from the recession—the highest unemployment since the Great Depression of the 1930s, escalating budget deficits at all levels of government, an unprecedented housing crisis exemplified by massive foreclosures, increasing social and economic inequality, a nation polarized by corrosive political conflict and incivility—create a context in which social policies are debated vociferously. Social workers, long committed to the ideal of social justice for all, are obligated to understand how policies affect their practice as well as the lives of those they serve and to advocate for policies that will improve social well-being as the United States recovers.
Phyllis J. Day
American social welfare began in the colonial period with the adoption of the Elizabethan Poor Laws as the basis for treatment of society's poor and deviant. By the beginning of the Progressive Era (1900), immigration, the Women's Movement, scientific investigation of social problems, and societal growth produced significant innovations in both public and private perceptions, programs, and treatment in such areas as poor relief, mental and physical health, and corrections, and led to the beginnings of professionalization of social work.
This entry traces American social welfare development from the 1890s to 1950. It also includes social work's participation and response to need during two critical times in American history: the Progressive Era and the New Deal. Social reformers were instrumental in the development of social legislation, including the establishment of the Children's Bureau as well as the development of a public welfare system at the state level. America's response to human suffering left many groups, such American Indians, African Americans, and Asians, marginalized. In response, African Americans established a parallel system of private relief through organizations such as the National Urban League, unlike the other racial groups.
In response to massive unemployment, in 1934, President Franklin Roosevelt charged members of the Committee on Economic Security to create a “cradle to grave” social-security system. The resultant Social Security Act of 1935 had the Unemployment Insurance (UE) program as its cornerstone. While Congress and the general public were more interested in old-age assistance, members of the Committee on Economic Security and their staff felt the Unemployment Insurance program was the most important element of the entire legislation. The program was designed to address unemployment caused by economic conditions and to regulate industrial employment. The Unemployment Insurance program, a federal–state partnership, has a number of critical coverage criteria. The importance of the Unemployment Insurance program and the complexity of interpreting both federal and state laws cannot be overstated.
Welfare as a right has long been an objective of advocates for social and economic justice. During the 1960s, the right to welfare was championed by legal scholars as well as the activists who created the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO). With the demise of NWRO in 1975 and the subsequent ascendance of conservatism in social policy, notably the 1996 welfare reform act, momentum for welfare as a right flagged. Since the 1990s, a capability approach to well-being has been proposed, and various instruments have been constructed to evaluate the welfare of populations across nations as well as subnational jurisdictions. Variables such as income, health, education, employment, and satisfaction measures of well-being have effectively replaced the idea of welfare as a right. The transition from welfare as a right to well-being varying across populations provides more information social workers can use to advocate for marginalized populations.