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The Adoption of Workers' Compensation in the United States 1900-1930

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  • Price V. Fishback
  • Shawn Everett Kantor

Abstract

The adoption of workers' compensation in the 1910s, from a variety of perspectives, was a significant event in the economic, legal, and political history of the United States. The legislation represented the first instance of a widespread social insurance program in the United States, setting the stage for the later adoption of federal government programs for unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, and health insurance. In this paper, we show that the adoption of workers' compensation was not the result of employers' or workers' to secure benefits at the expense of the other group. Nor was the success of compensation legislation simply the outcome of Progressive Era social reformers' demands for protective legislation. Workers' compensation was enacted rapidly across the United States in the 1910s because the key economic interest groups with a stake in the legislation -- employers, workers, and insurance companies -- anticipated benefits from resolving an apparent first decade of the twentieth century, workplace accident risk rose, state legislatures adopted a series of employers' liability laws, and court decisions limited employers' defenses in liability suits, which all combined to substantially increase the uncertainty of the negligence liability system.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5840.

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Date of creation: Nov 1996
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5840

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Cited by:
  1. J.C. Herbert Emery, 2008. "America’s Rejection of Compulsory Government Health Insurance in the Progressive Era and its Legacy for National Insurance Today," Working Papers 2008-23, Department of Economics, University of Calgary, revised 01 Apr 2008.
  2. Fabrice Murtin & Martina Viarengo, 2007. "The convergence process of compulsory schooling in Western Europe: 1950-2000," PSE Working Papers halshs-00588053, HAL.
  3. Raj Chetty & Amy Finkelstein, 2012. "Social Insurance: Connecting Theory to Data," NBER Working Papers 18433, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Alison Morantz, 2010. "Opting Out of Workers’ Compensation in Texas: A Survey of Large, Multistate Nonsubscribers," NBER Chapters, in: Regulation vs. Litigation: Perspectives from Economics and Law, pages 197-238 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Fabrice Murtin & Martina Viarengo, 2007. "The convergence process of compulsory schooling in Western Europe: 1950-2000," Working Papers halshs-00588053, HAL.
  6. Fabrice Murtin & Martina Viarengo, 2008. "The convergence of compulsory schooling in Western Europe: 1950-2000," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 23311, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  7. Fabrice Murtin & Martina Viarengo, 2011. "The Expansion and Convergence of Compulsory Schooling in Western Europe, 1950–2000," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 78(311), pages 501-522, 07.

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