United States of America


Social Development Policy:

The United States government promotes opportunity, mitigates risk, and improves the quality of life of individuals and families through a multifaceted approach to social development that addresses the changing needs of the population. Through local, state, and federal agencies, the U.S. government provides policies and programs that improve access to education, food and nutrition, basic health services, decent work, early childhood care, housing, and financial services.

Vision of Social Protection:

The United States believes that success should not be determined by birth or circumstance, but rather by the strength of our work ethic and scope of our dreams. Social protection is an investment in our country’s greatest resource: our people. The United States government is committed to the alleviation and mitigation of poverty, inequality, and to providing opportunities for all individuals to live up to their full potentials regardless of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, and protected veteran status.

The United States has a robust legal framework covering a range of social protection. The following are a few of the landmark laws that codify social protection programs:

  • Social Security Act (1935): created a social insurance program providing benefits to the elderly, persons with disabilities, and their survivors.
  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965): created a framework for federal assistance to high-poverty schools.
  • American Disabilities Act: affords citizens with disabling conditions protection from discrimination and mandates right to access to resources in public spaces, in the workplace and in housing.
  • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2010):  expands access to health care coverage, ensures people don’t lose health coverage when they become ill, slows the growing cost of care, and prioritizes preventive health.

Implementing Institution(s):

Unlike some of the other countries in the Americas region, the United States does not have a Ministry of Social Development or Social Protection. Various federal agencies of the U.S. government work in tandem on domestic social protection issues, in addition to numerous state and local level institutions. Programs run by each of these institutions address the multifaceted social protection needs of the population. The following federal agencies are responsible for social protection-related programming and/or have the responsibility of administering and enforcing relevant legislation according to their agency’s thematic priorities.

  • Department of Education: promotes equal opportunity in education by distributing funding for education programs with an emphasis on serving students who live in poverty, individuals with disabilities, students from underrepresented groups, and those with limited English proficiency.
  • Department of Health and Human Services: protects the health of all Americans, especially vulnerable populations, through 115 programs and services like Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development: creates strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all by strengthening the housing market, meeting the need for quality affordable rental homes, and building communities free from discrimination.
  • Department of Labor: provides unemployment compensation and other wage-loss program assistance; assures the security of work-related benefits (such as retirement and health insurance); enforces equal opportunity laws for employees of federal contractors; and administers career training programs for low-income youth, such as Job Corps.
  • Social Security Administration: administers a broad range of social security services, including insurance and supplemental income for the elderly, persons with disabilities, and their survivors.
  • Department of State: is responsible for U.S. foreign policy and promotes social protection cooperation throughout the region in collaboration with other U.S. agencies through professional and academic exchanges, regional conferences, technical assistance, and more.
  • USAID: collaborates with governments, civil society, and the private sector to strengthen institutions required for effective social protection programs throughout the world, including ministries of education, health, and finance.