Social welfare program in the U.S.; includes old-age and survivors insurance and some unemployment insurance and old-age assistance.
State provision of financial aid to alleviate poverty and to provide income to retired persons and disabled workers. The term “social security” was first applied officially in the US, in the Social Security Act 1935. The term usually refers specifically to old-age pensions, which have a contributory element, unlike “welfare.” The federal government is responsible for social security (medicare, retirement, survivors’, and disability insurance); unemployment insurance is covered by a joint federal-state system for industrial workers, but few in agriculture are covered; and welfare benefits are the responsibility of individual states, with some federal assistance. The program is an important source of income for the growing population of retired Americans. Politically sacrosanct, the benefits pose a growing burden for the working-age population.
The concept of such payments developed in the late 19th century in Europe -for example, compulsory social insurance in Germany from 1883. In the US the program was developed as part of the effort to cope with the effects of the Depression from 1929, when large numbers of Americans were without income.