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Backlash against Welfare MothersPast and Present$
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Ellen Reese

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780520244610

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520244610.001.0001

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. Explaining the Postwar Rise of Welfare Opposition

. Explaining the Postwar Rise of Welfare Opposition

(p.48) 4. Explaining the Postwar Rise of Welfare Opposition
Backlash against Welfare Mothers

Ellen Reese

University of California Press

This chapter explores the role of large farmers and white racists in the 1950s welfare backlash and how their opposition to welfare was shaped by perceived threats to their interests and values. It also argues that states were more likely to restrict welfare eligibility in the 1950s, when large farmers played a more important role in the economy, racial conflicts were more salient, and fiscal constraints were greater. The decline of southern sharecropping, an increase in black migration, and the expansion of Social Security to part-time and temporary farmworkers threatened farmers’ ready supply of casual labor, while mechanization and the use of foreign labor only partially reduced farmers’ demand for cheap domestic workers. In the 1950s, the main political forces behind the 1950s welfare backlash were large farmers and white racists. Welfare critics targeted nonwhite women for cutbacks and justified this through various racist stereotypes.

Keywords:   welfare backlash, large farmers, white racists, welfare opposition, welfare eligibility, economy, racial conflicts, Social Security, fiscal constraints, foreign labor

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