were also nearly three times as likely to report they were in poor health. The men who grew up in poverty were two times as likely to have been arrested, and women who grew up in these circumstances were five times as likely to have had a child out of wedlock. “Most poor children achieve less, exhibit more problem behaviors, and are less healthy than children reared in more affluent families,” the study’s authors concluded. “Evidence suggests that early poverty has substantial detrimental effects on adult earnings and work hours.” 4 POVERTY AND WELFARE IN THE UNITED STATES Government-run social programs to address poverty did not exist on a large scale a hundred years ago. Until the 1930s, social programs tended to involve individuals, fami- lies, churches, and businesses, rather than the government. Many people sought help from family members and local institutions. During the 1880s and 1890s, individuals who needed financial assistance would move to “poor houses.” This was often done as a last resort. Residents were forced to work in harsh conditions in return for shelter. The facilities were bare-boned and cramped, and people slept in crowded, unsanitary conditions. In 1893, a severe economic depression began in the United States. In economics, a “depression” is an unusually long-term downturn in business activity. It is often accom- panied by a high rate of unemployment, as businesses close


Contemporary Issues: Poverty and Welfare

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