Leveling the playing field: Epitomizing devolution through faith-based organizations

Robert J. Wineburg, Brian L. Coleman, Stephanie C. Boddie, Ram A. Cnaan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The original New-Federalism agenda that emerged with the Reagan administration weakened federal programs and transferred power to states and localities. While Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush's years were characterized by block grants and dismantling public assistance, the Clinton years will be remembered for the dismantling of AFDC. Recruiting faith-based organizations to provide social services epitomized the second Bush presidency. In this article, we demonstrate how the seeds for recruiting faith-based groups were planted before and during the Reagan years, and how two waves of devolution chipped away at our national commitment to welfare. These first two waves provided both the ideological and practical means for faith-based social service delivery, which epitomizes the third wave of devolution. We also briefly review the incorporation of religion in social services as part of the neo-federalist trend of the Reagan legacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-42
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Sociology and Social Welfare
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Devolution
  • Faith-based organizations
  • New federalism
  • Social service delivery
  • Welfare

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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