CES Report to the President


The President's Committee on Economic Security (CES) was formed in June 1934 and was given the task of devising "recommendations concerning proposals which in its judgment will promote greater economic security." In a message to Congress two weeks earlier President Roosevelt spelled-out what he expected the CES to achieve. ". . . I am looking for a sound means which I can recommend to provide at once security against several of the great disturbing factors in life--especially those which relate to unemployment and old age."

The Committee's work was extraordinary in its scope and remarkable for its brevity. In barely six months the CES designed the first comprehensive federal social insurance program in the nation's history. Not everything contemplated by the CES at the outset made it into their final proposal, for example, health insurance was deferred for later study. And not everything in the CES proposal made it into the final law, for example, the proposal for voluntary old-age annuities did not survive Congressional review. But the Report of the CES was the basic blueprint for what would come to be the Social Security Act. The work of the CES was in many ways historic and in some ways heroic. One of the participants in this watershed undertaking, Thomas Eliot, in his posthumously published memoir, described his work with the CES in this way: "And what was it like, to be there? The best way to answer that question is to quote Wordsworth: 'Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, And to be young was very Heaven.' "

Editorial Note: The basic text of the original CES report to the President was 50 printed pages, with an Appendix containing a list of Committee members and 19 additional tables of data. It is reproduced here in its entirety, along with the Committee's Transmittal Letter to President Roosevelt and the President's Transmittal Letter sending the Report to the Congress.

The full work of the CES was contained in 10 large volumes of reports and studies, which were never published. In 1937, two years after passage of the Social Security Act, the new Social Security Board published a summary of all 10 volumes of the Committee's work. This book, "Social Security In America," published in 1937, contains the Appendix and Tables from the original CES report, and a great deal more besides. The basic report itself, however, was not reprinted . In 1985 a small 50th anniversary commemorative edition of the CES report was privately published by the National Conference on Social Welfare. Their book, entitled "50th Anniversary Edition: The Report of the Committee on Economic Security of 1935," contains the text of the basic CES report, without the Appendix and Tables.

So we are republishing here, for only the second time since 1935, the full text of the original Report To The President of the Committee on Economic Security as it was transmitted to the President in January 1935.
(Note: the Appendix with its supplemental tables is available as JPEG image files only.) This is a foundational historical document, the basis of the Social Security Act of 1935 and all the programs that it entailed.


Basic Report:

Letter of Transmittal to The President

Cover Letter from the President to the Congress

Body of the Report


Members of the Committe, Advisory Boards and Committee Staff


[Table 1 printed in Report proper]


Families and persons receiving emergency relief, continental United States

Cases receiving emergency relief, direct work, special programs
4. Obligations incurred for emergency relief from all public funds, by source of funds, January 1933 through November 1934, by months and by quarters
5. Estimate of unemployment in employments which could be covered by unemployment-insurance plans
6. States arrayed by average percentage of nonagricultural April 1930; 1933 average; and 1930-33 average
7. Countries in which compulsory unemployment insurance laws have been enacted and number of workers covered in each
8. Countries in which voluntary unemployment insurance laws have been enacted and number of workers covered in each
9. General provisions of compulsory unemployment insurance laws
10. General provisions of voluntary subsidized unemployment insurance laws
11. Number of older persons gainfully occupied by age and occupation for United States, 1930
12. Age distribution of United States population by urban and rural for 1920 and 1930
13. Actual and estimated number of persons aged 65 and over compared to total population, 1860 to 2000
14. Operation of old-age pension laws of the United States, 1934
15. Principal features of the old-age pension laws of the United States
16. Old-age insurance and pension legislation in foreign countries through 1933
17. Principal provisions of foreign noncontributory old-age pension laws through 1933
18. Estimated number of families and children receiving mothers' aid and estimated expenditures for this purpose
19. Funds for State maternal and child health work
20. General economic statistics