Religion and Social Welfare in 20th Century Indianapolis

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What is most striking about faith-based social welfare in the 20th century is not its decline but its continued presence. Despite the widespread fears of many that an expanded welfare state would result in a less vibrant civil society, the policies initiated by the public welfare sector often had the effect of helping buttress the voluntary sector even as they guaranteed a dominant role for the public sector. In Indianapolis, public agencies often frequently enlarged their responsibility for social welfare by cooperating with faith-based agencies. The history of the relationship between public social welfare agencies and private voluntary organizations suggests that, in Indianapolis at least, the voluntary or independent sector has never been completely independent; neither has the welfare state overtaken the voluntary sector. Roundtable discussion follows essay.

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