This article explores how the Chilean state identified and categorized working men, women, and children during the Great Depression. Ideas of “employable” and “unemployable” as well as “deserving” and “undeserving” poor influenced how the government distributed relief, organized public-work projects, and eventually dismantled its emergency programs in 1932–34. But this was not an uncontested process. This article also sheds light on working families’ demands and how they shaped welfare policies and limited the state’s ability to influence and transform society. This article is based on archival documentation from Chile’s Department of Labor and local governments as well as memoirs, theses, and articles written by relief workers.

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