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
Date Written: November 3, 2010
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: Suggested Citation