Excerpt: Viviana Zelizer, The Social Meaning of Money

[…] For instance, did the social workers’ bestowal of money involve the right to tell families how to spend? Or did charitable income, once it entered the households of the poor, become their property?

The poor, too, had their own systems for earmarking household monies, not just for good times, but for a whole range of expenses; rent money was not the same as food money, and insurance was kept apart from a church donation. Even personal monies were differentiated; a son’s personal-spending allowance was treated quite differently from his sister’s, or from their father’s saloon money or his carfare. When poor families could afford it, they often set money aside for fraternal organizations or other mutual-aid societies, or, in the case of immigrants, earmarked certain monies to be sent to their families abroad. […]

From Viviana Zelizer, The Social Meaning of Money (BasicBooks: 1994), p.171.


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