What was the nature and extent of social change

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Rich and Poor

  • Between 1981 and 1996 the situation of the poorers American families worsened considerably and this was made clear by Reagan as he saw a differenence between the deserving poor and the welfare scrounger; and that these scroungers werent willing to work
  • Reagan told the story of a black woman in Chicago who was defrauding taxpayers out of $100,000's  a year by welfare fraud using a variety of names (press search never found her) 
  • His OBRA finance cuts target mainly federal spending on projects for the poorest. OBRA also altred the Aid to Families with dependent children which meant fewer people were eligible and many payments werre capped which hit the poorest working families the hardest. 
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  • Reagans administration was the first to state in the legislation that claiming benefit was buying into dependency and undesirable.The administratrion wanted to change 'welfare' to 'workfare'
  • It required at least one working parent before payment, for family benefit, for example
  • Much of the work that was provided was paid below minimum wage so families struggled
  • Many single parents found childcare impossible to find making it impossible for them to work
  • ORBA tightened up previous legislation that provided work projected tied to benefits for welfare claimants. it allowed states to make working on state projecs an absolute requirement for welfare payments. By 1987, there were 42 states running work programmes 
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Social housing

  • By 1985 there were 3.7 million families who qualified for a low income home but could not move into one ebcause there were none availiable 
  • Reagans administration slashed federal funding for builidng low cost homes 
  • In 1978 the federal government spent 32 billion on low cost housing projects and by 1988 it was spending just 9.2 billion 
  • This led to a rise in the number of homeless people and made the USA look bad and a contradiction to the american dream 
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  • Reagans administration could no longer ignore the problem of homelessnes in the 80s and in 1987 congress pushed through a bill giving some federal help to projects for the homeless
  • In 1984 federal funding available to the homeless was 300 million & in 1988 it was 1.6 billion
  • The 1987 Mckineey act set up food and shelter program to be run by FEMA. It matched state grants to local homeless projects and the state and local government funding could be raised through taxes, charities or donations 
  • FEMA  set up a federal housing project for transional housing with special emphasis on the elderly, disabled, veterans, and families with children. It also gave emergency medical care to the homeless and provided education for homeless children 
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The impact on living and working conditions

  • Working families not on welfare benefited from lower taxes but were hit harder by changes to family credit regulations and rising interest rates that pushed up housing and mortgage costs 
  • The average mortgage debt increased by 30% between 1980 and 1987 and the rate of foreclosure quadrupled 
  • Many people had to work longer hours and had less leisure time (in 1973 workers had 26 leisure ie a week and by 1987 this was only 16 hours ) and some had to even work at home
  • Reagans stress on productivity was emphasised by businesses and this was hard for working mothers who might need time off for their children which meant they could only work low-level jobs
  • Younger people entering the work force were worse off than their elders had been. A two tier wage structure emerged in many businesses. Established workers kept the wage rates and benefits they were negotiated when they took the ob but workers joining the business could be offered a lower salary for doing the same job 
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The impact on minorities

  • Reagans desire to cut back on federal involvement meant that the administration was unwilling to extended civil rights legislation or push for affirmative action. 
  • In the first 6 months of Reagans presidency the Civil rights division of the Justice department filed 5 racial discrimination lawsuits. 
  • In 1982, The Crisis, the magazine of the NAACP pointed out that the abandonment of busing students into various schools to promote racial segregation was harmful to minority groups
  • This was because It guaranteed that children in deprived areas would have to attend school there which causes segregated schooling 
  • The administration also withdrew 40% of its funding for bilingual education saying that it was in the interests of children from minority groups to use English as soon as possible 
  • While Reagan appointed Sandra Day to the supreme court women rights floundered under him. Reagan didn't support the ERA and spoke again abortion 
  • Some people accused Reagan of ignoring aids until his actor Rock Hudson died of it. 
  • Others point out that he addressed meetings on the epidemic and that the administration provided funding for AIDS research from 1982 
  • Hard-working, middle-class and well-educated especially women as they filled two minority quotas for businesses and undereducated black men went under
  • Young black Americans turned to angry and violent rap music as their anthem 
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Changing businesses and farms


  • Reagan was against big government but his policies favoured big businesses 
  • Big businesses profited from reduced federal regulation over wages and working hours
  • Deregulation meant they could merge or buy businesses
  • In 1983 a radio broadcast during small business week, Reagan said he was helping small businesses with tax breaks and allowing them to pay personal not corporate tax 
  • He said that over 500,000 businesses had been set up after the 1981-82 recession 
  • He avoided the issue of the rising interest rates on long-term loans that many small business held 


  • Farming was badly affected by high-interest rates and federal non-intervention 
  • In the 1979 USA stopped exporting wheat to the USSR after they invaded Afghanistan
  • At the same time interest rates rose as the money supply was tightened and many smaller farms failed and were bought out by bigger companies (agri-business or normal businesses)
  • The National Save the Family Farm Coalition was set up in 1986 and it organised demonstrations and used tactics like tractorades in cities. There were 500 farms sold a month and farmers were committing suicide 4 times the rate of any other worker 
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Changing production

  • During the 80s there was a shift in what the USA produced. Older manufacturing industries such as the car and textiles were dong badly against foreign imports that were made cheaper
  • The Reagan administration would not impose tariffs on foreign imports and towns where car manufactures were the main employer were badly hit 
  • In Baltimore and Cleveland over 20% of the population was living under the poverty line 
  • It also had an effect on the industries as demand for those raw materials dropped 
  • New industries like the defence industry and computer industry were doing well 
  • Everything from estate agencies to coffee shop chains and computer goods stores were doing well
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The Bi-Coastal boom

  • The industries that did well in 80's created employment and people were eager to move to areas where these industries were located
  • There was a population shift from the North and East to the South West (coastal state)
  • Those families that could afford make this move fuelled a growth of the suburbs 
  • People in these places were consistently more likely to vote for Reagan and Bush 
  • Unemployment dropped in states on the east coast (5.6% unemployment rate) 
  • These areas had almost 75% of all new business and about 60% of new jobs 
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