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A Prelude to the Welfare State

The Origins of Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation was arguably the first widespread social insurance program in the United States and the most successful form of labor legislation to emerge from the early Progressive Movement. Adopted in most states between 1910 and 1920, workers’ compensation laws have been paving seen as the way for social security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, and eventually the broad network of social welfare programs we have today.

In this highly original and persuasive work, Price V. Fishback and Shawn Everett Kantor challenge widespread historical perceptions, arguing that, rather than being an early progressive victory, workers’ compensation succeeded because all relevant parties—labor and management, insurance companies, lawyers, and legislators—benefited from the legislation. Thorough, rigorous, and convincing, A Prelude to the Welfare State: The Origins of Workers’ Compensation is a major reappraisal of the causes and consequences of a movement that ultimately transformed the nature of social insurance and the American workplace.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Why Study the Origins of Workers’ Compensation?
1. Framing the Issues
2. Compensation for Accidents before Workers’ Compensation
3. The Economic Impact of the Switch to Workers’ Compensation
4. The Timing of Workers’ Compensation’s Enactment in the United States
5. The Political Process of Adopting Workers’ Compensation
6. The Fractious Disputes over State Insurance
7. The Battles over Benefit Levels, 1910-1930
8. Epilogue: Lessons from the Origins of Workers’ Compensation
Appendix A: Accident Reporting under the Negligence System
Appendix B: Workers’ Compensation Benefits and the Construction of the Expected Benefits Variable
Appendix C: Measuring the Change in Accident Benefits from Negligence Liability to Workers’ Compensation
Appendix D: Econometric Analysis Used to Estimate Wage Offsets
Appendix E: A Model of Insurance Consumption and Saving Behavior
Appendix F: An Econometric Analysis of the Effect of Increased Expected Benefits on Saving and Insurance Behavior
Appendix G: Employers’ Liability Laws
Appendix H: Discrete-Time Hazard Analysis of the Timing of Adoption across the United States
Appendix I: Data Sources and Descriptions of Quantitative Variables
Appendix J: State versus Private Insurance: An Ordered-Probit Analysis of the State’s Choice
Appendix K: A Quantitative Analysis of Workers’ Compensation Benefit Levels

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