Divorce and the Politics of the American Social Welfare Regime, 1969-2001


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation asks how rising divorce rates shaped the politics and policies around the American social welfare regime between 1969, when California passed the nation’s first no-fault divorce law, and 2001. Scholars have shown that in the twentieth century the welfare regime developed to distribute economic resources, such as Social Security, to women through their husbands. Between 1967 and 1979, however, the United States’ divorce rate doubled. Historians have yet to address how this sudden challenge to the breadwinner-homemaker family structure at the heart of the gendered welfare regime affected it. This project seeks to answer this question by examining how women organized to gain access to lost economic resources after divorce and how policymakers responded to their demands.