The Social Security Act, signed into law on Sept. 14, 1935, put into motion our family’s current state of affairs.

Even though the law was meant to protect families and provide a financial umbrella in times of need, it had an inherent flaw.

Title IV, State Grants for Aid to Dependent Children Appropriation, and Title V, Grants to States for Maternal and Child Welfare Appropriation, allowed for the states to include the “man in the house rule” that was in effect the conception of our current family crisis.

Social Security was designed as an insurance program to be administered by the states with the federal government providing the initial funding to the states, who would then actually run the program.

The law was broken down into 11 titles that spelled out all of the appropriations allotted to the states and how those appropriations were to be used by the states, along with general guidelines for the use of the appropriations.

Therein lies the flaw, because the law allowed the states to make certain determinations for eligibility, and most states included in their eligibility requirements a provision that the “man in the house rule” would disqualify eligibility for the benefits.

Before Social Security, there were only two reasons for a family not to have a man in the house — the death of the man or the home was broken. A broken home could be caused by divorce, separation or abandonment.

In most cases prior to Social Security, families that suffered the loss of the man in the house generally reached out to the extended family or charitable groups for assistance.

What the Social Security Act did was allow the states to enact provisions in the administration of the law that ultimately led to the destruction of the nuclear family.

At the time, the country was in the middle of the Great Depression and lawmakers wanted to single out the most needy, the children, with the lowest number of recipients as possible, because the government did not want to take care of the huge number of people out of work.

Even though some couples may not have been married in the traditional sense, they maintained the family unit where the man of the house lived in the house, creating a family unit.

The “man in the house rule” enacted by many states was also aimed at the black population, because, at the time of the enactment of the law, the largest portion of unwed mothers and unmarried couples were black.

The way the law was used by the majority of states was inherently racist. If a couple were living together, outside of marriage, they automatically became ineligible for benefits.

The “man in the house” rule denied benefits to that family because there was a man living in the house, regardless of the financial condition of the family.

The “man in the house” rule adopted by most states did not take into account the actual need of families, where the man in the house and his family were destitute.

The law mistakenly required that in order to get benefits, the nuclear family had to be destroyed.

The family, with the absence of the father, was no longer an intact unit. Not only did this impact the nuclear family, the basic family unit, but also the extended family.

When the father was required to be absent from the home, his entire extended family was also excluded from the family. The nuclear family was being destroyed by good intentions gone astray.

While Social Security allowed the states to determine eligibility for families to get benefits, it erred by not spelling out what constituted who was qualified.

It failed by not being specific in who was eligible for benefits and excluded many families that the act was meant to help.

When the states enacted eligibility, they determined that benefits could only be extended to homes where the man was absent, either by death or choice.

It dictated that when a man was in the house, that family could not get the benefits the law provided. The states required the breaking up of the nuclear family in order for the family to get the needed help from the government.

That oversight in not clarifying the requirements for eligibility set up the destruction of, first the Negro family, and the subsequent destruction of the nuclear family across the entire country.

When the federal government, along with the actions of the states, set up the mechanism that insisted on the nuclear family’s destruction; we started down the road we are on.

The continuing problems we face today can easily be traced back to Title IV and V of the 1935 Social Security Act.

In all the time since the enactment of the Social Security Act of 1935, neither the federal government nor the states have addressed the major flaw in the bill.

There have been attempts to clarify and expand some of the provisions of the bill, but the central issues of eligibility continue to hamper the intent of the basic law. In most states, it favors the destruction of the nuclear family.

My question has always been: Why can’t we help all families in need and insist that men can and should remain in the home in order to gain eligibility for benefits?

Common sense and logic can see the flaw with the Social Security Act and how it has a determinable impact on the nuclear family.

Not only has it broken that unit, but also it has impacted the extended family, as well. No longer do families have the support of the nuclear family. But families no longer interact with the extended family as they once did.


TO BE continued.


BERNARD LESLIE is a beekeeping expert who lives beside Kentucky Lake in the northeast corner of Henry County. His email address is

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