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This article analyzes the strategy and rhetoric of the National Federation of Settlements’ 1928 project on unemployment. During the Hoover years settlement workers assembled an extensive catalog of case studies, which offer a glimpse into the home life of the jobless and their families at the beginning of the Great Depression. From their research the NFS Committee on Unemployment published a series of books and articles that depicted the unemployed as the undeserving victims of economic change, and called for policies to protect them. Throughout, settlement workers focused on the families of the unemployed, drawing on gendered notions of work and family and lifting up policies that protected male breadwinner households. Thus, settlement leaders re-cast unemployment as a social, rather than an economic, problem. In all, settlement research, writing, and reception presented a skeptical voting public with a palatable argument for social insurance that brought the experiences of the jobless to the voting public and to policymakers, demonstrating a process of “policymaking from the middle.” In so doing, they redeemed the newly unemployed and the insurance plans intended to protect them.

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Oxford University Press


Great Depression, unemployment, case studies, National Federation of Settlement, Hoover, social history


This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Journal of Social History following peer review. The version of record, Trollinger, Abigail. "Revealing the “Social Consequences of Unemployment”: The Settlement Campaign for the Unemployed on the Eve of Depression." Journal of Social History, Volume 52, Issue 4, Summer 2019, Pages 1250–1280] is available online at [].

Revealing the ‘social consequences of unemployment’: the Settlement Campaign for the Unemployed on the Eve of Depression