Dandridge v. Williams

397 U.S. 471, 90 S. Ct. 1153 (1970)



In the area of economics and social welfare, a state does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of U.S. Const. amend. XIV 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. The problems of government are practical ones and may justify, if they do not require, rough accommodations -- illogical, it may be, and unscientific. A statutory discrimination will not be set aside if any set of facts reasonably may be conceived to justify it. 


 In connection with its participation in the Federal Aid to Families With Dependent Children program, the state of Maryland imposed through administrative regulation a maximum limit on the total amount of aid which any one family unit could receive. Respondent welfare recipients brought an action challenging the validity of the Maryland regulation on the grounds that its "maximum grant" provision did not comply with the Social Security Act of 1935 and violated the Equal Protection Clause. The lower court granted the respondent's judgment on the constitutional ground. On appeal, the court reversed.


Did the contested regulation violate the Equal Protection Clause?




The maximum grant provision did not violate § 602(a)(10), which required that aid be furnished with reasonable promptness "to all eligible individuals." The Social Security Act did not require that the aid furnished must equal the total of each individual's standard of need in every family group, but only that some aid was provided to all eligible families and all eligible children. The court also held that the "maximum grant" provision did not violate the Equal Protection Clause because the classification had a reasonable basis in promoting the State's interest in encouraging employment and avoiding invidious discrimination between welfare families and families of the working poor.

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