MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case involves the validity of a method used by Maryland, in the administration of an aspect of its public welfare program, to reconcile the demands of its needy citizens with the finite resources available to meet those demands. Like every other State in the Union, Maryland participates in the Federal Aid to Families
The operation of the Maryland welfare system is not complex. By statute
In its original opinion the District Court held that the Maryland regulation does conflict with the federal statute, and also concluded that it violates the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection guarantee. After reconsideration on motion, the court issued a new opinion resting its determination of the regulation's invalidity entirely on the constitutional ground.
The appellees contend that the maximum grant system is contrary to § 402 (a) (10) of the Social Security Act, as amended,
The argument is that the state regulation denies benefits to the younger children in a large family. Thus, the appellees say, the regulation is in patent violation of the Act, since those younger children are just as "dependent"
It cannot be gainsaid that the effect of the Maryland maximum grant provision is to reduce the per capita benefits to the children in the largest families. Although the appellees argue that the younger and more recently arrived children in such families are totally deprived of aid, a more realistic view is that the lot of the entire family is diminished because of the presence of additional children without any increase in payments. Cf. King v. Smith, supra, at 335 n. 4 (DOUGLAS, J., concurring). It is no more accurate to say that the last child's grant is wholly taken away than to say that the grant of the first child is totally rescinded. In fact, it is the family grant
In King v. Smith, supra, we stressed the States' "undisputed power," under these provisions of the Social Security Act, "to set the level of benefits and the standard of need." Id., at 334. We described the AFDC enterprise as "a scheme of cooperative federalism," id., at 316, and noted carefully that "[t]here is no question that States have considerable latitude in allocating their AFDC resources, since each State is free to set its own standard of need and to determine the level of benefits by the amount of funds it devotes to the program." Id., at 318-319.
Congress was itself cognizant of the limitations on state resources from the very outset of the federal welfare program. The first section of the Act, 42 U. S. C. § 601 (1964 ed., Supp. IV), provides that the Act is
Thus the starting point of the statutory analysis must be a recognition that the federal law gives each State great latitude in dispensing its available funds.
The States must respond to this federal statutory concern for preserving children in a family environment. Given Maryland's finite resources, its choice is either to support some families adequately and others less adequately, or not to give sufficient support to any family. We see nothing in the federal statute that forbids a State to balance the stresses that uniform insufficiency of payments would impose on all families against the greater ability of large families—because of the inherent
The appellees rely most heavily upon the statutory requirement that aid "shall be furnished with reasonable promptness to all eligible individuals." 42 U. S. C. § 602 (a) (10) (1964 ed., Supp. IV). But since the statute leaves the level of benefits within the judgment of the State, this language cannot mean that the "aid" furnished must equal the total of each individual's standard of need in every family group. Indeed the appellees do not deny that a scheme of proportional reductions for all families could be used that would result in no individual's receiving aid equal to his standard of need. As we have
This is the view that has been taken by the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW), who is charged with the administration of the Social Security Act and the approval of state welfare plans. The parties have stipulated that the Secretary has, on numerous occasions, approved the Maryland welfare scheme, including its provision of maximum payments to any one family, a provision that has been in force in various forms since 1947. Moreover, a majority of the States pay less than their determined standard of need, and 20 of these States impose maximums on family grants of the kind here in issue.
Finally, Congress itself has acknowledged a full awareness of state maximum grant limitations. In the Amendments of 1967 Congress added to § 402 (a) a subsection, 23:
This specific congressional recognition of the state maximum grant provisions is not, of course, an approval of any specific maximum. The structure of specific maximums Congress left to the States, and the validity of any such structure must meet constitutional tests. However, the above amendment does make clear that Congress
For all of these reasons, we conclude that the Maryland regulation is not prohibited by the Social Security Act.
Although a State may adopt a maximum grant system in allocating its funds available for AFDC payments without violating the Act, it may not, of course, impose a regime of invidious discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Maryland says that its maximum grant regulation is wholly free of any invidiously discriminatory purpose or effect, and that the regulation is rationally supportable on at least four entirely valid grounds. The regulation can be clearly justified, Maryland argues, in terms of legitimate state interests in encouraging gainful employment, in maintaining an equitable balance in economic status as between welfare families and those supported
If this were a case involving government action claimed to violate the First Amendment guarantee of free speech, a finding of "overreaching" would be significant and might be crucial. For when otherwise valid governmental regulation sweeps so broadly as to impinge upon activity protected by the First Amendment, its very overbreadth may make it unconstitutional. See, e. g., Shelton v. Tucker, 364 U.S. 479. But the concept of "overreaching" has no place in this case. For here we deal with state regulation in the social and economic field, not affecting freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, and claimed to violate the Fourteenth Amendment only because the regulation results in some disparity in grants of welfare payments to the largest AFDC families.
In the area of economics and social welfare, a State does not violate the Equal Protection Clause merely because the classifications made by its laws are imperfect. If the classification has some "reasonable basis," it does not offend the Constitution simply because the classification "is not made with mathematical nicety or because in practice it results in some inequality." Lindsley v. Natural Carbonic Gas Co., 220 U.S. 61, 78. "The problems of government are practical ones and may justify, if they do not require, rough accommodations—illogical, it may be, and unscientific." Metropolis Theatre Co. v. City of Chicago, 228 U.S. 61, 69-70. "A statutory discrimination will not be set aside if any state of facts reasonably may be conceived to justify it." McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 426.
To be sure, the cases cited, and many others enunciating this fundamental standard under the Equal Protection Clause, have in the main involved state regulation of business or industry. The administration of public welfare assistance, by contrast, involves the most basic economic needs of impoverished human beings. We recognize the dramatically real factual difference between the cited cases and this one, but we can find no basis for applying a different constitutional standard.
Under this long-established meaning of the Equal Protection Clause, it is clear that the Maryland maximum grant regulation is constitutionally valid. We need not explore all the reasons that the State advances in justification of the regulation. It is enough that a solid foundation for the regulation can be found in the State's legitimate interest in encouraging employment and in avoiding discrimination between welfare families and the families of the working poor. By combining a limit on the recipient's grant with permission to retain money earned, without reduction in the amount of the grant, Maryland provides an incentive to seek gainful employment. And by keying the maximum family AFDC grants to the minimum wage a steadily employed head of a household receives, the State maintains some semblance of an equitable balance between families on welfare and those supported by an employed breadwinner.
It is true that in some AFDC families there may be no person who is employable.
We do not decide today that the Maryland regulation is wise, that it best fulfills the relevant social and economic objectives that Maryland might ideally espouse, or that a more just and humane system could not be devised. Conflicting claims of morality and intelligence are raised by opponents and proponents of almost every measure, certainly including the one before us. But the intractable economic, social, and even philosophical problems presented by public welfare assistance programs are not the business of this Court. The Constitution may impose certain procedural safeguards upon systems of welfare administration, Goldberg v. Kelly, ante, p. 254. But the Constitution does not empower this Court to second-guess state officials charged with the difficult responsibility of allocating limited public welfare funds among the myriad of potential recipients. Cf. Steward Mach. Co. v. Davis, 301 U.S. 548, 584-585; Helvering v. Davis, 301 U.S. 619, 644.
The judgment is reversed.
APPENDIX TO OPINION OF THE COURT
The following was the schedule for determining subsistence needs, exclusive of rent, at the time this action was brought. Md. Manual of Dept. of Pub. Welfare, pt. II, Rule 200, Sched. A, p. 27:
STANDARD FOR DETERMINING COST OF SUBSISTENCE NEEDS _________________________________________________________________________________________ I II III IV V ___________________________________________________________ Monthly costs when Number of persons in ___________________________________________________________ assistance unit (include unborn child as an No heat or Light and/ Heat with Heat, cook- Heat additional person) utilities or cooking or without ing fuel and all included fuel in- light and water utilities with cluded included heating included shelter with with included with shelter shelter with shelter shelter _________________________________________________________________________________________ 1 person living: Alone_____________________ $51.00 $49.00 $43.00 $40.00 $38.00 With 1 person_____________ 42.00 41.00 38.00 35.00 35.00 With 2 persons____________ 38.00 37.00 35.00 34.00 33.00 With 3 or more persons____ 36.00 35.00 34.00 33.00 32.00 2 persons living: Alone_____________________ 84.00 82.00 76.00 72.00 70.00 With 1 other person_______ 76.00 74.00 70.00 68.00 66.00 With 2 or more other persons__________________ 72.00 70.00 68.00 66.00 64.00 3 persons living: Alone_____________________ 113.00 110.00 105.00 101.00 99.00 With 1 or more other persons__________________ 108.00 106.00 101.00 99.00 97.00 4 persons_____________________ 143.00 140.00 135.00 131.00 128.00 5 persons_____________________ 164.00 162.00 156.00 152.00 150.00 6 persons_____________________ 184.00 181.00 176.00 172.00 169.00 7 persons_____________________ 209.00 205.00 201.00 197.00 193.00 8 persons_____________________ 235.00 231.00 227.00 222.00 219.00 9 persons_____________________ 259.00 256.00 251.00 247.00 244.00 10 persons____________________ 284.00 281.00 276.00 271.00 268.00 Each additional person over 10 persons___________________ 24.50 24.50 24.50 24.50 24.50 _________________________________________________________________________________________
Modification of standard for cost of eating in restaurant: Add $15 per individual.
Other schedules set the estimated cost of shelter in the various counties in Maryland. See id., Sched. B—Plan A, p. 29; Sched. B— Plan B, p. 30. The present schedules, which are substantially the same, appear in the Md. Manual of Dept. of Social Services, Rule 200, pp. 33, 35.
Assuming, as the Court apparently does, that individual welfare recipients can bring an action against state welfare authorities challenging an aspect of the State's welfare plan as inconsistent with the provisions of the Social Security Act, 42 U. S. C. §§ 601-610 (1964 ed. and Supp. IV), even though the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare has determined as he has here that the federal and state provisions are consistent, cf. Rosado v. Wyman, ante, p. 430 (BLACK, J., dissenting), I join in the opinion of the Court in this case.
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, concurring.
I join the Court's opinion, with one reservation which I deem called for by certain implications that might be drawn from the opinion.
As I stated in dissent in Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618, 658-663 (1969), I find no solid basis for the doctrine there expounded that certain statutory classifications will be held to deny equal protection unless justified by a "compelling" governmental interest, while others will pass muster if they meet traditional equal protection standards. See also my dissenting opinion in Katzenbach v. Morgan, 384 U.S. 641, 660-661 (1966). Except with respect to racial classifications, to which unique historical considerations apply, see Shapiro, at 659, I believe the constitutional provisions assuring equal protection of the laws impose a standard of rationality of classification, long applied in the decisions of this Court, that does not depend upon the nature of the classification or interest involved.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, dissenting.
Appellees, recipients of benefits under the Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) program, brought this suit under 42 U. S. C. § 1983 to have declared invalid and permanently enjoined the enforcement of the Maryland maximum grant regulation, which places a ceiling on the amount of benefits payable to a family under AFDC. They alleged that the regulation was inconsistent with the Social Security Act and that it denied equal protection of the laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. I do not find it necessary to reach the constitutional argument in this case, for in my view the Maryland regulation is inconsistent with the terms and purposes of the Social Security Act.
The Maryland regulation under attack, Rule 200, § X, B, of the Maryland Department of Social Services, places an absolute limit of $250 per month on the amount of a grant under AFDC, regardless of the size of the family and its actual need.
In King v. Smith, 392 U.S. 309, 318-319, this Court stated: "There is no question that States have considerable latitude in allocating their AFDC resources, since each State is free to set its own standard of need and to determine the level of benefits by the amount of funds it devotes to the program." That dictum, made in the context of a case that dealt with Alabama's "substitute father" regulation, does little to clarify the limits of state authority. The holding in King was that the Alabama regulation, which denied AFDC benefits to the children of a mother who "cohabited" in or outside her home with an able-bodied man, was invalid because it defined "parent" in a manner inconsistent with § 406 (a) of the Social Security Act, 42 U. S. C. § 606 (a) (1964 ed., Supp. IV). The Court rejected the State's contention that its regulation was "a legitimate way of allocating its limited resources available for AFDC assistance." 392 U. S., at 318. Thus, whatever else may be said of the "latitude" extended to States in determining the benefits payable under AFDC, the holding in King makes clear that it does not include restrictions on the payment of benefits that are incompatible with the Social Security Act.
The methods by which a State can limit AFDC payments below the level of need are numerous. The method used in King was to deny totally benefits to a specifically defined class of otherwise eligible recipients. Another method, which was disapproved by Congress in § 402 (a) (10) of the Social Security Act, 42 U. S. C. § 602 (a) (10) (1964 ed., Supp. IV), was to refuse to take additional applications pending a decrease in the number of recipients on the assistance rolls or an increase in available funds. The two methods most commonly employed
The authority given the States to set the level of benefits payable under their AFDC plans stems from § 401 of the Social Security Act, 42 U. S. C. § 601 (1964 ed., Supp. IV), which states the purpose of the federal AFDC appropriations as "enabling each State to furnish financial assistance and rehabilitation and other services, as far as practicable under the conditions in such State. . . ." (Emphasis added.) It is significant in this respect that the Court in King referred only to a State's determination of the level of benefits "by the amount of funds it devotes to the [AFDC] program." 392 U. S., at 318-319 (emphasis added). The language of § 401 and the language of the Court in King both reflect a concern that the Federal Government not require a state legislature to appropriate more money for welfare purposes than it is willing and able to appropriate. The use of the matching formula in § 403 of the Act, 42 U. S. C. § 603 (1964 ed., Supp. IV), supports this deference to the fiscal decisions of state legislatures. The question of a State's authority to pay less than its standard of need, however, has never been expressly decided.
Assuming, arguendo, that a State need not appropriate sufficient funds to pay all eligible AFDC recipients the
The District Court, in its initial ruling that the Maryland regulation was inconsistent with the Social Security Act, relied primarily on § 402 (a) (10) of the Act, which provides that "all individuals wishing to make application for aid to families with dependent children shall have opportunity to do so, and that aid to [families with] dependent children shall be furnished with reasonable promptness to all eligible individuals." 42 U. S. C. § 602 (a) (10) (1964 ed., Supp. IV). (Emphasis added.) This provision was added by the Social Security Act Amendments of 1950, 64 Stat. 549. The House Committee on Ways and Means, where the provision originated, explained its purpose as follows:
In the court below, the appellants relied upon this legislative history to argue that the "eligible individuals" to whom aid must be furnished are the applicants for aid referred to in the beginning of the provision, and not the individual members of a family unit. I find nothing in the Act or in the legislative history of § 402 (a) (10) which supports that argument.
The purpose of the AFDC program, as stated in the Act, is to encourage "the care of dependent children in their own homes or in the homes of relatives by enabling each State to furnish financial assistance and rehabilitation and other services, as far as practicable under the conditions in such State, to needy dependent children and the parents or relatives with whom they are living to help maintain and strengthen family life . . . ." Social Security Act § 401, 42 U. S. C. § 601 (1964 ed., Supp. IV) (emphasis added). The terms "dependent child" and "relative with whom any dependent child is living" are defined in § 406 of the Act, 42 U. S. C. § 606 (1964 ed., Supp. IV).
The aid provided through the AFDC program has always been intended for the individual dependent children, not for those who apply for the aid on their behalf. The Senate Committee on Finance, in its report on the Social Security Bill of 1935, stated this purpose in the following terms:
Prior to 1950, no specific provision was made for the need of the parent or other relative with whom the dependent child was living. Although this underscores
This amendment emphasizes the congressional concern with fully meeting the needs of the dependent children in a given family; and it would seem to negative the necessity of those children sharing their individual allocations with other essential members of the family unit.
There is other evidence that Congress intended each eligible recipient to receive his fair share of benefits under the AFDC program. The Public Welfare Amendments of 1962 provided that a state AFDC plan must "provide for the development and application of a program
These "family services" provisions are helpful in interpreting the words "all eligible individuals" in § 402 (a) (10) of the Act for they reveal Congress' overriding concern with meeting the needs of each eligible recipient of aid under the AFDC program. The resources commanded
Section 403 (d) (1) of the Act imposes a limitation on federal payments to States as respects children whose eligibility is based upon the absence from the home of a parent. Under this section, the number of AFDC children under the age of 18 for whom federal sharing is available cannot exceed the ratio of AFDC children eligible because of an "absent parent" to the total child
In sum, the provisions of the Act that compute the amount of federal contribution to state AFDC programs are related to state payments to individual recipients and have consistently excluded any limitation based upon family size. The limitation contained in § 403 (d) (1) of the Act affects only the amount of federal matching funds in one category of aid, and in no way indicates congressional approval of maximum grants.
The purpose of the AFDC provisions of the Social Security Act is not only to provide for the needs of dependent children but also "to keep the young children with their mother in their own home, thus preventing the necessity of placing the children in institutions." S. Rep. No. 628, 74th Cong., 1st Sess., 17 (1935). Also see Social Security Act § 401. As the District Court noted, however, "the maximum grant regulation provides a powerful economic incentive to break up large families by placing `dependent children' in excess of those whose subsistence needs, when added to the subsistence needs of other members of the family, exceed the maximum grant, in the homes of persons included in the class of eligible relatives." 297 F. Supp., at 456. By this device, payments for the "excess" children can be obtained.
The District Court correctly states that this incentive to break up family units created by the maximum grant regulation is in conflict with a fundamental purpose of the Act.
The history of the Social Security Act thus indicates that Congress intended the financial benefits, as well as the other benefits, of the AFDC program to reach each individual recipient eligible under the federal criteria. It was to this purpose that Congress had reference when it commanded in § 402 (a) (10) of the Act that aid to families with dependent children shall be furnished to "all eligible individuals."
The Court attempts to avoid the effect of this command by stating that "it is the family grant that is affected." Ante, at 477-478. The implication is that, regardless of how the AFDC payments are computed or to whom they apply, the payments will be used by the parents for the benefit of all the members of the family unit. This is no doubt true. But the fact that parents may take portions of the payments intended for certain children to give to other children who are not given payments under the State's AFDC plan, does not alter the fact that aid is not being given by the State to the latter children. And it is payments by the State, not by the parents, to which the command of § 402 (a) (10) is directed. The Court's argument would equate family
Against the legislative history and the command of § 402 (a) (10), the appellants cite three provisions of the Social Security Act as recognizing the validity of state maximum grant regulations.
The first of these provisions is § 402 (a) (23) of the Act, 42 U. S. C. § 602 (a) (23) (1964 ed., Supp. IV), which provides:
This section had its genesis in an Administration proposal to require States to pay fully the amounts required by their standard of need, and also to make cost-of-living adjustments to that standard of need by July 1, 1968, and annually thereafter. Hearings on H. R. 5710 before the House Committee on Ways and Means, 90th Cong., 1st Sess., pt. 1, p. 59 (1967); House Committee on Ways and Means, Section-by-Section Analysis and Explanation of Provisions of H. R. 5710, 90th Cong., 1st Sess., 36 (Comm. Print) (1967). The bill that emerged from the House as H. R. 12080, however, did not include any provision relating to an increase in benefit levels or
Nowhere in any of the hearings, committee reports, or floor debates, is there shown a congressional intent to validate state maximum grant regulations by the provisions of § 402 (a) (23). Rather, the legislative history shows that Congress was exclusively concerned with increasing the income of AFDC recipients. If Congress had not required cost-of-living adjustments in state-imposed grant maximums, the States could easily nullify the effect of the cost-of-living adjustments for many AFDC families by retaining the grant ceilings in force before the adjustment was made. Congress was, to be sure, acknowledging the existence of maximum grant regulations. But every congressional reference to an existing practice does not automatically imply approval of that practice. The task of statutory construction requires more. It requires courts to look to the context of that reference, and to the history of relevant legislation. In the present context, the reference to maximum
Appellants also rely on § 108 (a) of Pub. L. 87-543, 76 Stat. 189, a provision of the Public Welfare Amendments of 1962 that amended § 406 of the Act. This amendment, which has since been superseded, authorized "protective payments" to an individual other than the relative with whom the dependent child is living. The problem which this amendment was designed to cure was that some payees were unable to manage their funds so that the dependent children received the full benefit of the AFDC payments. Hearings on H. R. 10606 before the Senate Committee on Finance, 87th Cong., 2d Sess., 137 (1962). The House bill required "a meeting of all need as determined by the State" as a condition to including "protective payments" within the definition of "aid to families with dependent children." The Senate Finance Committee changed that requirement, however, by an amendment which authorized federal funding of "protective payments" if the state-determined need of individuals with respect to whom such payments were made was fully met by their assistance payment and other income or resources. The Senate Committee explained this provision as follows:
The final statutory provision relied upon by appellants is § 220 (a) of Pub. L. 90-248, 81 Stat. 898, which added to the Medical Assistance Title of the Act a new § 1903 (f), 42 U. S. C. § 1396b (f) (1964 ed., Supp. IV). This section limits federal financial participation in medical assistance benefits to those whose incomes do not exceed 133 1/3% of the highest amount of AFDC assistance paid to a family of the same size without any income or resources. This section, however, also provides: "If the Secretary [of HEW] finds that the operation of a uniform maximum limits payments to families of more than one size, he may adjust the amount otherwise determined. . . to take account of families of different sizes." The purpose of this provision was to allow qualification as medically indigent of those individuals who would have qualified but for the operation of an AFDC grant maximum, and thus prevent the extension of the operation of grant maximums into the Medical Assistance Title. Congressional rejection of grant maximums in the Medical Assistance Title does not infer their approval in the context of the AFDC provisions. Quite the contrary would seem to be the case.
In all of the legislative provisions relied upon by the appellants, the congressional reference to maximum grants has been made in the context of attempting to alleviate the harsh results of their application, not in a context of approving and supporting their operation. The three statutory references cited by appellants and
Appellants tender one further argument as to the compliance of the Maryland maximum grant regulation with the Social Security Act. That argument is that the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare has not disapproved of any of the Maryland plans that have included maximum grant provisions, and that this lack of disapproval by HEW is a binding administrative determination as to the conformity of the regulation with the Social Security Act. That argument was thoroughly explored by the District Court below in its supplemental opinion. The District Court accepted the claim that HEW considers the Maryland maximum grant regulation not to be violative of the Act, but held:
HEW seldom has formally challenged the compliance of a state welfare plan with the terms of the Social Security Act. See Note, Federal Judicial Review of State Welfare Practices, 67 Col. L. Rev. 84, 91 (1967). The mere absence of such a formal challenge, whatever may be said for its constituting an affirmative determination of the compliance of a state plan with the Social Security Act, is not such a determination as is entitled to
On the basis of the inconsistency of the Maryland maximum grant regulation with the Social Security Act, I would affirm the judgment below.
MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, whom MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN joins, dissenting.
For the reasons stated by MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, to which I add some comments of my own, I believe that the Court has erroneously concluded that Maryland's maximum grant regulation is consistent with the federal statute. In my view, that regulation is fundamentally in conflict with the basic structure and purposes of the Social Security Act.
More important in the long run than this misreading of a federal statute, however, is the Court's emasculation of the Equal Protection Clause as a constitutional principle applicable to the area of social welfare administration. The Court holds today that regardless of the arbitrariness of a classification it must be sustained if any state goal can be imagined that is arguably furthered by its effects. This is so even though the classification's underinclusiveness or overinclusiveness clearly demonstrates that its actual basis is something other than that asserted by the State, and even though the relationship between the classification and the state interests which it purports to serve is so tenuous that it could not seriously be maintained that the classification tends to accomplish the ascribed goals.
The Court recognizes, as it must, that this case involves "the most basic economic needs of impoverished human beings," and that there is therefore a "dramatically real factual difference" between the instant case and those decisions upon which the Court relies. The acknowledgment that these dramatic differences exist is
At the outset, it should be emphasized exactly what is involved in determining whether this maximum grant regulation is consistent with and valid under the federal law. In administering its AFDC program, Maryland has established its own standards of need, and they are not under challenge in this litigation. Indeed, the District Court specifically refused to require additional appropriations on the part of the State or to permit appellees to recover a monetary judgment against the State. At the same time, however, there is no contention, nor could there by any, that the maximum grant regulation is in any manner related to calculation of need.
The phrase "aid to families with dependent children," from which the AFDC program derives its name, appears in § 402 (a) (10) of the Act, 42 U. S. C. § 602 (a) (10) (1964 ed., Supp. IV), and is defined in 42 U. S. C. § 606 (b) (1964 ed., Supp. IV) as, inter alia, "money payments with respect to . . . dependent children." (Emphasis added.) Moreover, the term "dependent child" is also extensively defined in the Act. See 42 U. S. C. § 606 (a) (1964 ed., Supp. IV). Nowhere in the Act is there any sanction or authority for the State to alter those definitions—that is, to select arbitrarily from among the
It was to disapprove just such an arbitrary device to limit AFDC payments that Congress amended § 402 (a) (10) in 1950 to provide that aid "shall be furnished with reasonable promptness to all eligible individuals." (Emphasis added.) Surely, as my Brother DOUGLAS demonstrates, this statutory language means at least that the State must take into account the needs of, and provide aid with respect to, all needy dependent children. Indeed, that was our assessment of the congressional design embodied in the AFDC program in King v. Smith, 392 U.S. 309, 329-330, 333 (1968).
The opinion of the Court attempts to avoid this reading of the statutory mandate by the conclusion that parents will see that all the children in a large family share in whatever resources are available so that all children "do receive some aid." And "[s]o long as some aid is provided to all eligible families and all eligible children, the statute itself is not violated." The Court also views sympathetically the State's contention that the "all eligible individuals" clause was designed solely to prevent discrimination against new applicants for AFDC benefits. I am unpersuaded, however, by the view that Congress simultaneously prohibited discrimination against one class of dependent children—those in families not presently receiving benefits—and at the same time sanctioned discrimination against another class— those children in large families. Furthermore, the Court's interpretation would permit a State to impose a drastically reduced maximum grant limitation—or, indeed, a uniform payment of, say, $25 per family per month—as long as all families were subject to the rule.
Moreover, the practical consequences of the maximum grant regulation in question here confirm my view that it is invalid. Under the complicated formula for determining the extent of federal support for the AFDC program in the various States, the federal subsidy is based upon "the total number of recipients of aid to families with dependent children." 42 U. S. C. § 603 (a) (1964 ed., Supp. IV). "Recipients" is defined in the same provision to include both dependent children and the eligible relative or relatives with whom they live. There is, however, no limitation upon the number of recipients per family unit for whom the federal subsidy is paid to the States. Thus, when a maximum family grant regulation is in effect, the State continues to receive a federal subsidy for each and every dependent child even though the State passes none of this subsidy on to the large families for the use of the additional dependent children.
Specifically, in Maryland, the record in this case indicates that the State spends an average of almost $40 per recipient per month. Under the federal matching formula, federal funds provide $22 of the first $32 per recipient, with anything above $32 being supplied by the State.
A second effect of the maximum family grant regulation further demonstrates its inconsistency with the federal program. As administered in Maryland, the regulation serves to provide a strong economic incentive to the disintegration of large families. This is so because a family subject to the maximum regulation can, merely by placing the ineligible children in the homes of other relatives, receive additional monthly payments for the support of these additional dependent children.
With regard to the position of the Secretary of HEW, about all that can be said with confidence is that we do not know his views on the validity of family maximum regulations within the federal structure.
Finally, the Court tells us that Congress has said that the Act permits maximum grant regulations. If it had, this part of the case would be obvious; but, of course, it has not. There is no indication Congress has focused on the family maximum as opposed to individual or other maximums or combinations of such limiting devices.
Having decided that the injunction issued by the District Court was proper as a matter of statutory construction, I would affirm on that ground alone. However, the majority has of necessity passed on the constitutional issues. I believe that in overruling the decision of this and every other district court that has passed on the validity of the maximum grant device,
The Maryland AFDC program in its basic structure operates uniformly with regard to all needy children by taking into account the basic subsistence needs of all eligible individuals in the formulation of the standards of need for families of various sizes. However, superimposed upon this uniform system is the maximum grant regulation, the operative effect of which is to create two classes of needy children and two classes of eligible families: those small families and their members who receive payments to cover their subsistence needs and those large families who do not.
This classification process effected by the maximum grant regulation produces a basic denial of equal treatment. Persons who are concededly similarly situated (dependent children and their families), are not afforded equal, or even approximately equal, treatment under the maximum grant regulation. Subsistence benefits are paid with respect to some needy dependent children; nothing is paid with respect to others. Some needy families receive full subsistence assistance as calculated by the State; the assistance paid to other families is grossly below their similarly calculated needs.
In the instant case, the only distinction between those children with respect to whom assistance is granted and those children who are denied such assistance is the size of the family into which the child permits himself to be born. The class of individuals with respect to whom payments are actually made (the first four or five eligible dependent children in a family), is grossly underinclusive in terms of the class that the AFDC program was designed to assist, namely, all needy dependent children. Such underinclusiveness manifests "a prima facie violation of the equal protection requirement of reasonable classification,"
The Court never undertakes to inquire for such a justification; rather it avoids the task by focusing upon the abstract dichotomy between two different approaches to equal protection problems that have been utilized by this Court.
Under the so-called "traditional test," a classification is said to be permissible under the Equal Protection Clause unless it is "without any reasonable basis."
This case simply defies easy characterization in terms of one or the other of these "tests." The cases relied on by the Court, in which a "mere rationality" test was actually used, e. g., Williamson v. Lee Optical Co., 348 U.S. 483 (1955), are most accurately described as involving the application of equal protection reasoning to the regulation of business interests. The extremes to which the Court has gone in dreaming up rational bases for state regulation in that area may in many instances be ascribed to a healthy revulsion from the Court's earlier excesses in using the Constitution to protect interests that have more than enough power to protect themselves in the legislative halls. This case, involving the literally vital interests of a powerless minority—poor families without breadwinners—is far removed from the area of business regulation, as the Court concedes. Why then is the standard used in those cases imposed here? We are told no more than that this case falls in "the area of economics and social welfare," with the implication that from there the answer is obvious.
In my view, equal protection analysis of this case is not appreciably advanced by the a priori definition of a "right," fundamental or otherwise.
The asserted state interests in the maintenance of the maximum grant regulation, on the other hand, are hardly clear. In the early stages of this litigation, the State attempted to rationalize the maximum grant regulation on the theory that it was merely a device to conserve state funds, in the language of the motion to dismiss, "a legitimate way of allocating the State's limited resources available for AFDC assistance." Indeed, the initial opinion of the District Court concluded that the sole reason for the regulation, as revealed by the record, was "to fit the total needs of the State's dependent children, as measured by the State's standards of their subsistence requirements, into an inadequate State appropriation." 297 F. Supp., at 458. The District Court quite properly rejected this asserted justification, for
In post-trial proceedings in the District Court, and in briefs to this court, the State apparently abandoned reliance on the fiscal justification. In its place, there have now appeared several different rationales for the maximum grant regulation, prominent among them being those relied upon by the majority—the notions that imposition of the maximum serves as an incentive to welfare recipients to find and maintain employment and provides a semblance of equality with persons earning a minimum wage.
With regard to the latter, Maryland has urged that the maximum grant regulation serves to maintain a rough equality between wage earning families and AFDC families, thereby increasing the political support for— or perhaps reducing the opposition to—the AFDC program. It is questionable whether the Court really relies on this ground, especially when in many States the prescribed family maximum bears no such relation to the minimum wage.
Vital to the employment-incentive basis found by the Court to sustain the regulation is, of course, the supposition that an appreciable number of AFDC recipients are in fact employable. For it is perfectly obvious that limitations upon assistance cannot reasonably operate as a work incentive with regard to those who cannot work or who cannot be expected to work. In this connection. Maryland candidly notes that "only a very small percentage of the total universe of welfare recipients are employable." The State, however, urges us to ignore the "total universe" and to concentrate attention instead upon the heads of AFDC families. Yet the very purpose of the AFDC program since its inception has been to provide assistance for dependent children. The State's position is thus that the State may deprive certain needy children of assistance to which they would otherwise be entitled in order to provide an arguable work incentive for their parents. But the State may not wield its economic whip in this fashion when the effect is to cause a deprivation to needy dependent children in order to correct an arguable fault of their parents.
Even if the invitation of the State to focus upon the heads of AFDC families is accepted, the minimum rationality of the maximum grant regulation is hard to discern. The District Court found that of Maryland's more than 32,000 AFDC families, only about 116 could be classified as having employable members, and, of these, the number to which the maximum grant regulation was applicable is not disclosed by the record. The State objects that this figure includes only families in which the father is unemployed and fails to take account of families in which an employable mother is the head of the household. At the same time, however, the State itself has recognized that the vast proportion of these mothers are in fact unemployable because they are mentally or physically incapacitated, because they have no marketable skills, or, most prominently, because the best interests of the children dictate that the mother remain in the home.
Finally, it should be noted that, to the extent there is a legitimate state interest in encouraging heads of AFDC households to find employment, application of the maximum grant regulation is also grossly underinclusive because it singles out and affects only large families. No reason is suggested why this particular group should be carved out for the purpose of having unusually harsh "work incentives" imposed upon them. Not only has the State selected for special treatment a small group from among similarly situated families, but it has done so on a basis—family size—that bears no relation to the evil that the State claims the regulation was designed to correct. There is simply no indication whatever that heads of large families, as opposed to heads of small families, are particularly prone to refuse to seek or to maintain employment.
The State has presented other arguments to support the regulation. However, they are not dealt with specifically by the Court, and the reason is not difficult to discern. The Court has picked the strongest available; the others suffer from similar and greater
In the final analysis, Maryland has set up an AFDC program structured to calculate and pay the minimum standard of need to dependent children. Having set up that program, however, the State denies some of those
However, these asserted state interests, which are not insignificant in themselves, are advanced either not at all or by complete accident by the maximum grant regulation. Clearly they could be served by measures far less destructive of the individual interests at stake. Moreover, the device assertedly chosen to further them is at one and the same time both grossly underinclusive— because it does not apply at all to a much larger class in an equal position—and grossly overinclusive—because it applies so strongly against a substantial class as to which it can rationally serve no end. Were this a case of pure business regulation, these defects would place it beyond what has heretofore seemed a borderline case, see, e. g., Railway Express Agency v. New York, 336 U.S. 106 (1949), and I do not believe that the regulation can be sustained even under the Court's "reasonableness" test.
In any event, it cannot suffice merely to invoke the spectre of the past and to recite from Lindsley v. Natural Carbonic Gas Co. and Williamson v. Lee Optical Co. to decide the case. Appellees are not a gas company or an optical dispenser; they are needy dependent children and families who are discriminated against by the State. The basis of that discrimination—the classification of individuals into large and small families—is too
I would affirm the judgment of the District Court.
"B. Amount—The amount of the grant is the resulting amount of need when resources are deducted from requirements as set forth in this Rule, subject to a maximum on each grant from each category:
"1. $250—for local departments under any `Plan A' of Shelter Schedule
"2. $240—for local departments under any `Plan B' of Shelter Schedule
"a. If the requirements of a child over 18 are included to enable him to complete high school or training for employment (III-C-3), the grant may exceed the maximum by the amount of such child's needs.
"b. If the resource of support is paid as a refund (VI-B-6), the grant may exceed the maximum by an amount of such refund. This makes consistent the principle that the amount from public assistance funds does not exceed the maximum.
"c. The maximum may be exceeded by the amount of an emergency grant for items not included in a regular monthly grant. (VIII)
"d. The maximum may be exceeded up to the amount of a grant to a person in one of the nursing homes specified in Schedule D, Section a.
"3. A grant is subject to any limitation established because of insufficient funds."
Md. Manual of Dept. of Social Services, Rule 200, § X, B, p. 23, formerly Md. Manual of Dept. of Pub. Welfare, pt. II, Rule 200, § VII, 1, p. 20.
In addition, AFDC recipients in Maryland may be eligible for certain assistance in kind, including food stamps, public housing, and medical aid. See, e. g., 42 U. S. C. § 1396 et seq. (1964 ed., Supp. IV); 7 U. S. C. §§ 1695-1697. The applicable provisions of state and federal law also permit recipients to keep part of their earnings from outside jobs. 42 U. S. C. §§ 630-644 (1964 ed., Supp. IV); Md. Manual of Dept. of Social Services, Rule 200, § VI, B (8) (c) (2). Both federal and state law require that recipients seek work and take it if it is available. 42 U. S. C. § 602 (a) (19) (F) (1964 ed., Supp. IV); Md. Manual of Dept. of Social Services, Rule 200, § III (D) (1) (d).
"The term `dependent child' means a needy child (1) who has been deprived of parental support or care by reason of the death, continued absence from the home, or physical or mental incapacity of a parent, and who is living with his father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, brother, sister, stepfather, stepmother, stepbrother, stepsister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, or niece, in a place of residence maintained by one or more of such relatives as his or their own home, and (2) who is (A) under the age of eighteen, or (B) under the age of twenty-one and (as determined by the State in accordance with standards prescribed by the Secretary) a student regularly attending a school, college, or university, or regularly attending a course of vocational or technical training designed to fit him for gainful employment."
The Act also covers children who have been placed in foster homes pursuant to judicial order or because they are state charges. 42 U. S. C. § 608 (1964 ed., Supp. IV).
"When States are unable to meet need as determined under their standards they reduce payments on a percentage or flat reduction basis . . . . These types of limitations may be used in the absence of, or in conjunction with, legal or administrative maximums. A maximum limits the amount of assistance that may be paid to persons whose determined need exceeds that maximum, whereas percentage or flat reductions usually have the effect of lowering payments to most or all recipients to a level below that of determined need."
See also HEW Interim Policy Statement of May 31, 1968, 33 Fed. Reg. 10230 (1968); 45 CFR § 233.20 (a) (2) (ii), 34 Fed. Reg. 1394 (1969).
"If the Secretary finds that the operation of a uniform maximum limits payments to families of more than one size, he may adjust the amount otherwise determined under clause (i) to take account of families of different sizes."
These provisions have particular significance in light of the Administration's initial effort to secure a law forcing each State to pay its full standard of need. See Rosado v. Wyman, supra.
This recognition of the existence of state maximums is not new with the Amendments of 1967. In reporting on amendments to the Social Security Act in 1962, 76 Stat. 185, the Senate committee referred to "States in which there is a maximum limiting the amount of assistance an individual may receive." S. Rep. No. 1589, 87th Cong., 2d Sess., 14 (1962).
The services provided by the Act for AFDC recipients include "family services" and "child-welfare services." "Family services" are defined by § 406 (d) of the Act, as "services to a family or any member thereof for the purpose of preserving, rehabilitating, reuniting, or strengthening the family, and such other services as will assist members of a family to attain or retain capability for the maximum self-support and personal independence." "Child-welfare programs" are defined by § 425 of the Act, 42 U. S. C. § 625 (1964 ed., Supp. IV), as "public social services which supplement, or substitute for, parental care and supervision for the purpose of (1) preventing or remedying, or assisting in the solution of problems which may result in, the neglect, abuse, exploitation, or delinquency of children, (2) protecting and caring for homeless, dependent, or neglected children, (3) protecting and promoting the welfare of children of working mothers, and (4) otherwise protecting and promoting the welfare of children, including the strengthening of their own homes where possible or, where needed, the provision of adequate care of children away from their homes in foster family homes or day-care or other child-care facilities." In addition, § 402 (a) (15) of the Act requires the State AFDC plan to provide for the development of a program for each appropriate relative and dependent child receiving aid under the plan, and other "essential persons" living with a relative and child receiving such aid, "with the objective of—(i) assuring, to the maximum extent possible, that such relative, child, and individual will enter the labor force and accept employment so that they will become self-sufficient, and (ii) preventing or reducing the incidence of births out of wedlock and otherwise strengthening family life . . . ."
Section 432 of the Act, 42 U. S. C. § 632 (1964 ed., Supp. IV), provides for the establishment of work-incentive programs for AFDC recipients which include the placement of recipients over the age of 16 in employment, "institutional and work experience training for those individuals for whom such training is likely to lead to regular employment," and "special work projects for individuals for whom a job in the regular economy cannot be found." See also Social Security Act § 402 (a) (19).
The State must also provide foster care in accordance with § 408 of the Act. See Social Security Act § 402 (a) (20). And whenever the State feels that AFDC payments may not be used in the best interests of the child, it may provide for counseling or guidance with respect to the use of such payments and the management of other funds. Social Security Act § 405, 42 U. S. C. § 605.
These goals remain the same today. See 42 U. S. C. § 601 (1964 ed., Supp. IV). See generally Note, Welfare's "Condition X," 76 Yale L. J. 1222, 1232-1233 (1967).
At the same time the Court's insistence that equal protection analysis turns on the basis of a closed category of "fundamental rights" involves a curious value judgment. It is certainly difficult to believe that a person whose very survival is at stake would be comforted by the knowledge that his "fundamental" rights are preserved intact.
On the issue of whether there is a "right" to welfare assistance, see generally Graham, Public Assistance: The Right To Receive; the Obligation To Repay, 43 N. Y. U. L. Rev. 451 (1968); Harvith, Federal Equal Protection and Welfare Assistance, 31 Albany L. Rev. 210 (1967); Note, Welfare Due Process: The Maximum Grant Limitation on the Right To Survive, 3 Ga. L. Rev. 459 (1969). See also Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Art. 25.
For an application of this approach to several welfare questions, see Comment, Equal Protection as a Measure of Competing Interests in Welfare Litigation, 21 Me. L. Rev. 175 (1969).
These cases and those cited in n. 17, supra, suggest that whether or not there is a constitutional "right" to subsistence (as to which see n. 14, supra,) deprivations of benefits necessary for subsistence will receive closer constitutional scrutiny, under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, than will deprivations of less essential forms of governmental entitlements.