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.
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.
Eric R. Kingson, Dana Bell, and Sarah Shive
This entry examines why our nation’s Social Security system was built, what it does, and what must be done to maintain and improve this foundational system for current and future generations. After a discussion of the social insurance approach to economic security and its underlying principles and values, the evolution of America’s Social Security system is reviewed—beginning with the enactment of the Social Security Act of 1935, through its incremental development, to the changed politics of Social Security since the mid-1990s. Next, program benefits and financing are described and contemporary challenges and related policy options are identified, in terms of both the program’s projected shortfall and the public’s need for expanded retirement, disability, and survivorship protections. The entry concludes by noting that social workers have an important role to play in shaping Social Security’s future.
DeBrenna LaFa Agbényiga
As a profession, social workers must understand and work well within the realms of capacity development. This understanding is important because it provides a foundation for working at the micro and macro levels to engage communities, organizations, systems, and individuals. However, the complexity of capacity development has made it difficult for social workers to fully engage from this stance. This entry discusses the historical development of capacity development and building while linking it to social justice. It also provides a theoretical perspective and methods for understanding and utilizing capacity development and building in social-work practice.
Margaret Sherrard Sherraden and Lisa Reyes Mason
Community economic development (CED) is an integrated and community-driven approach to development aimed at generating wealth, capabilities, and empowerment in low-income and low-wealth communities. Nonprofit organizations partner with public and for-profit interests to develop social and economic investment strategies for community economic renewal and revitalization. Social workers in CED engage in interdisciplinary work in community organizing, leadership development, program development and implementation, social-service management, and policy advocacy. To achieve large and sustainable success, CED requires solidarity with and investment in poor communities by society as a whole.
Melinda Lewis and Sondra G. Beverly
The federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit for working families with low and moderate incomes. The credit provides a substantial income supplement to families with children and thus helps families finance basic necessities or invest in longer-term household development. In recent years, political support for the EITC has declined. Social workers should be prepared to advocate against policy changes that would reduce the impact of the EITC. Social workers could also support EITC outreach campaigns and advocate for more and expanded state EITCs.
Economic insecurity and family Well-Being is a growing concern for American society. With the dramatic changes that occurred following the “great recession” of 2008, and the lingering effects since, families have experienced stressors and multiple strains in their adjustment to the impact of the changing fiscal climate and their financial demands. To understand the experience of economic insecurity, an understanding of economic security is helpful in providing a context for how these two dynamics emanate and impact families and their Well-Being. This article provides a glimpse of how the fragility of the economy and the mental tax experienced by the family are inextricably interdependent and connected.
Michael Anthony Lewis
This article covers basic economic concepts, as well as their relevance to social welfare policy. It defines economics, and follows this with discussions of microeconomic concepts, such as market, demand, supply, equilibrium price, and market failure. Next, it takes up discussions of macroeconomic concepts, such as gross domestic product, aggregate demand, inflation, unemployment, fiscal policy, taxes, and free trade. As these economic concepts are discussed, they are related to social welfare policies, such as Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
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.
Margaret Sherrard Sherraden
Financial capability combines the ability to act with the opportunity to act in ways that contribute to financial functioning. As large numbers of people struggle to manage their household finances, financial capability has become increasingly important. Improving financial capability requires financial education and guidance as well as improved access across the life span to appropriate and beneficial financial products and services. Examples of policies that promote financial capability across the life span include Children’s Development Accounts and myRAs, long-term investment vehicles that build financial capability. Social work can play a key role in building financial capability through interventions in households, communities, and policies. However, these contributions require practice and research to develop and test interventions. They also require financial education for social workers.