The Decision to Exclude Agricultural and Domestic Workers from the 1935 Social Security Act

Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 70, No. 4, pp. 49-68, 2010

20 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2010

See all articles by Larry DeWitt

Larry DeWitt

Social Security Administration

Date Written: November 3, 2010

Abstract

The Social Security Act of 1935 excluded from coverage about half the workers in the American economy. Among the excluded groups were agricultural and domestic workers - a large percentage of whom were African Americans. This has led some scholars to conclude that policymakers in 1935 deliberately excluded African Americans from the Social Security system because of prevailing racial biases during that period. This article examines both the logic of this thesis and the available empirical evidence on the origins of the coverage exclusions. The author concludes that the racial-bias thesis is both conceptually flawed and unsupported by the existing empirical evidence. The exclusion of agricultural and domestic workers from the early program was due to considerations of administrative feasibility involving tax-collection procedures. The author finds no evidence of any other policy motive involving racial bias.

Keywords: Social Security, agricultural and domestic workers

JEL Classification: I00

Suggested Citation

DeWitt, Larry, The Decision to Exclude Agricultural and Domestic Workers from the 1935 Social Security Act (November 3, 2010). Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 70, No. 4, pp. 49-68, 2010, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1702847

Larry DeWitt (Contact Author)

Social Security Administration ( email )

6401 Security Blvd.
Baltimore, MD 21235
United States

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