This Civil War Pension program provided benefits to war veterans with disabilities, in addition, widows and orphans could receive pensions equal to the amount paid to veterans. Starting with the year 1906 old age has become the main qualification for the benefits payment. Thus, by the year 1960 the following groups of people were receiving benefits: Civil War veterans, survivors with disabilities, and the old-aged. Later, these programs would become known as Social Security.
In particular, four major demographic changes led to the emergence of Social Security in the early 1930s: the Industrial Revolution, the urbanization of America, the disappearance of the extended family and the market increase in life expectancy. Also, as a result of an Agricultural Revolution the majority of self-employed workers were transformed into industrial working class. When primary income comes from wages, economic security is threatened by recessions, layoffs and business failures, factors that employees have no control over. Industrialization has led to city growth and by 1930 half of the population was living in cities. The trend towards urbanization resulted in the disappearance of the extended family. This was due to large families living in the same residence. The major advantage of an extended family was that when one member became too old too work, the other members assumed responsibility for his well-being. Urbanization limited this kind of support and many old people appeared behind the line of poverty. Finally, due to improved healthcare and sanitation Americans began to live significantly longer. The net result from these demographic changes was that Americans were older, more industrial and fewer people lived in extended families. The existing provisions of economic security were becoming increasingly fragile.
The Social Security programs adopted in late 1935 relied on the concept of social insurance common in Europe at that time. The initial aim of the Social Security system was to shift the responsibility for economic security to the governmental institutions. In the late 19th century several European and Latin American states already had some form of the social insurance campaigns. The major points of the American Social Security included old age assistance, unemployment insurance, aid to dependent children and grants to the states to provide medical care (Tanner, 2004). The section on old-age benefits is what people think about Social Security today. Although the American social insurance program has been initiated much later, it was relatively successful compared to the other systems. For example, in the book "Relief and Social Security" Meriam notes the following: " . . . social insurance and the allied services, as they exist today, are conducted by a complex of disconnected administrative organs, proceeding on different principles, doing invaluable service but at a cost in money and trouble and anomalous treatment of identical problems for which there is no justification. In a system of social security better on the whole than can be found in almost any other country there are serious deficiencies which call for remedy" (Meriam, 1946, p. 2).
Meriam talks about the American Social Security Act of 1935 as one of the most successful. Particularly, she outlines four major benefits this act has offered (Meriam, 1946, p. 16-19):
The creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps by the national government