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Burns, Eveline

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Eveline Mabel Richardson Burns  (1900-1985)  —   Social Economist, Author, Educator and Contributor to the Development of the Social Security Act of 1935

Editor’s Note: Below this narrative about Eveline Burns, there is a lengthy resume of her career that she prepared.

Eveline M. Burns
Eveline M. Burns
Photo: Public Domain

Eveline Mabel Richardson Burns was a social economist, author, and educator. On the faculty at the London School of Economics before emigrating to the U.S., Burns taught at Columbia University from 1928 to 1967, first in economics along with her husband, economist Arthur R. Burns, and then at the School of Social Work, where she helped develop the doctoral program and the policy studies program. She was a part of the President’s Committee on Economic Security, which formulated the Social Security Act of 1935. For more than three decades she remained an influential consultant and advisor on Social Security and income-maintenance issues.

Professor Burns with the Deputy Director of SSA's Bureau of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, Robert Ball. The occasion was the White House Conference on Aging in January 1961.
Professor Burns with the Deputy Director of SSA’s Bureau of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, Robert Ball. The occasion was the White House Conference on Aging in January 1961.
Photo: Social Security Administration

As a staff member of the Presidential Committee on Economic Security in 1934, she helped formulate the specifics of the Social Security Act as it was eventually passed by Congress. She was later director of research for the Committee on Long-Range Work and Relief Policies of the National Resources Planning Board. The committee’s report published in 1942, shaped the public assistance and work programs as they developed throughout the 1940’s. Through her teaching at Columbia of comparative social security systems, she helped educate a generation of scholars in the United States who carried on important research in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Among the honors received by Dr. Burns, was a Florina Lasker Social Work Award in 1964 contributions “as an outstanding authority on social security systems throughout the world.” In 1968, she received the Blanche Ittlesson Award for her contributions to social planning. She received numerous honorary degrees and was elected an honorary fellow at the London School of Economics. Burns travelled extensively under the auspices of the State Department. In 1958-59, she was American delegate to the International Conference on Social Work in Tokyo. She was President of the National Conference of Social Welfare, 1957-58, and vice President of the American Public Health Association from 1969-1970. She was also active in the Consumers’ League, the American Association of University Women and the American Association of University Professors. She was author of nine major published works and more than a hundred articles. She was a consultant to a number of government agencies including the United States Treasury, the Federal Reserve Board, the New York State Department of Labor, the U.S. Children’s Bureau, the Federal Advisory Council on Employment Security, the National Public Advisory Committee on Regional Economic Development and the President’s Task Force on Inter-maintenance. Following her retirement as a professor at the Columbia University, she continued to remain active in the field and serve as a consultant to private and public agencies. A few months before her death, she participated in the special conference and celebration commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Social Security Act.

Originally Published: NASW Foundation. (2004). Eveline Burns (1900-1985). Retrieved from

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): NASW Foundation. (2004). Eveline Mabel Richardson Burns (1900-1985) — Social economist, author, educator and contributor to the development of the Social Security Act of 1935. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved [date accessed] from


BURNS, Eveline Mabel

Born 1900, London; married 1922, Arthur R. Burns of London.

B.Sc. (Econ.), Ph.D. (London), Honorary D.H.L. (Western College; Adelphi; Columbia), Honorary LL.D. (Western Reserve University). Professor Emeritus, Columbia University, since 1967; and Consultant Economist, Community Service Society, New York, since 1971.

Streatham Secondary School, 1913-16; London School of Economics and Political Science, 1916-20; London County Council Tuition Scholarship; B.Sc. (Econ.), 1st Class Honors in Economics, 1920; Ph.D., 1926; Adam Smith Medal for outstanding thesis of the year, 1926.

Laura Spelman Rockefeller Fellowship, 1926-28; Visiting Professor, Bryn Mawr College, 1945; Guggenheim Fellowship, 1954-55; SIMON VISITING PROFESSOR, May-July 1955; Florina Lasker Award (“for outstanding contributions in the field of Social Security”), 1960; Honorary Doctorate in Human Letters, Western College, 1962; Honorary LL.D., Western Reserve University, 1963; Honorary Fellow, London School of Economics and Political Science, 1963; Bronfman Lecturer, American Public Health Association, 1966; Ittelson Medal (“for contributions to social planning”), 1968; Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters, Adelphi University, 1968; Woman of Achievement Award, American Association of University Women, 1968; Honorary Doctorate in Human Letters, Columbia University, 1969; Robb Visiting Professor, Barnard College, 1970-71.

Administrative Assistant, Ministry of Labor, 1917-20; Assistant Lecturer, London School of Economics and Political Science, 1921-28; and Lecturer, Graduate Department of Economics, 1928-41; Chief, Economic Security and Health Section, National Resources Planning Board, 1941-43; Staff Member, National Planning Association, 1944; Professor of Social Work, Columbia University, 1946-67; Professor (part-time), Graduate School of Social Work, New University, 1968-70.

Member, American Economic Association (Member of Executive Committee, 1951-53 and Vice-President 1953-54), National Conference on Social Welfare (Secretary 1955; First Vice- President, 1956 and President, 1957-58), American Public Health Association (Vice-President 1969-70), Federal Advisory Council on Employment Security (1952-70; Chairman of various committees), Legislative Policy Committee of the American Public Welfare Association (1956-68), Steering Committee of the White House Conference on Children (1959-60), Federal Advisory Committee on Area Redevelopment (subsequently the National Committee on Regional Economic Development) (1961-69), President Johnson’s Task Force on Income Security Policy (1964), Mayor Lindsay’s Commission on Delivery of Health Service in New York City (1967-68), National Council of the American Association of University Professors (1961-64); Staff Member, Committee on Economic Security (1934), Sub-Committee on Social Policy for Health Care and Member of its Executive Committee, New York Academy of Medicine (since 1964); Secretary, Hobby’s Advisory Committee on Coverage Extension of the Social Security Act (1953-54) (Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare); Vice-President and President, Consumers’ League of New York (1935-38); Consultant to New York Department of Labor, Social Security Administration, Treasury Department, Federal Reserve Board, New York Department of Social Welfare.

“The French Minimum Wage Act of 1915” in Economica, III, 1923;

“The Economics of Family Endowment” in Economica, V, 1925;

Wages and the State: A Comparative Study of the Problems of State Wage Regulations, London, P. S. King and Son, 1926;

The Economic World: A Survey (with A. R. Burns), London, Oxford University Press, 1927;

“Achievements of the British Pension System” in Old-Age Security: Proceedings of the Second National Conference, New York, American Association of Old-Age Security, 1929;

“Planning and Unemployment” in Socialist Planning and a Socialist Program, Ed. H. W. Laidler, New York, Falcon Press, 1932;

“Misconceptions of European Unemployment Insurance” in Social Security in the United States: 1933, New York, American Association for Social Security, 1933;

“Lessons from British and German Experience” in Social Security in the United States: 1934, New York, American Association for Social Security, 1934;

“Can Social Insurance Provide Social Security?” in Social Security in the United States: 1935, New York, American Association for Social Security, 1935;

“The Lessons of German Experience with Unemployment Relief” in Lectures on Current Economic Problems, Washington, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Graduate School, 1936;

“Basic Principles in Old-Age Security” in Social Security in the United States: 1936, New York, American Association for Social Security, 1936;

Memorandum onWall Street JournalArticles, Washington, Bureau of Research and Statistics (Memorandum No. 3), 1936

Towards Social Security: An Explanation of the Social Security Act and a Survey of the Larger Issues, London, Whittlesey House, and New York, McGraw-Hill, 1936;

“Social Realities versus Technical Obfuscations” in Social Security in the United States: 1937, New York, American Association for Social Security, 1937;

The Arguments for and against the Old-Age Reserve, Washington, Social Security Board, 1938;

“Some Fundamental Consideration in Social Security” in Social Security in the United States: 1940, New York, American Association for Social Security, 1940;

British Unemployment Programs 1920-38 (Report prepared for the Committee on Social Security), Washington, Social Science Research Council, 1941;

Security, Work and Relief Policies (Report of the Committee on Long-Range Work and Relief Policies to the National Resources Planning Board: Eveline M. Burns, Director of Research), Washington, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1942;

“Building for Economic Security—Six Foundation Stones” in The Third Freedom: Freedom from Want, Ed. H. W. Laidler, New York, League for Industrial Democracy, 1943;

“Equal Access to Health” and “Equal Access to Economic Security” in National Resources Development Report for 1943 (Part I), Washington, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1943;

Discussion and Study Outline on Social Security, Washington, National Planning Association (Planning Pamphlets No. 33), 1944;

“Social Security” in Economic Reconstruction, Ed. S. E. Harris, New York, McGraw-Hill, 1945;

“Economic Factors in Family Life” in The Family in the Democratic Society, New York, Columbia University Press, 1949;

“How Much Social Welfare Can America Afford?” in The Social Welfare Forum, 1949, Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work, New York, Columbia University Press, 1950;

“Social Insurance in Evolution” in Readings in Labor Economics, Ed. F. S. Doody, Cambridge (Mass.), Addison Wesley Press, 1950;

The American Social Security System, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 2nd edition, 1951;

The Social Security Act Amendments of 1950: An Appendix to The American Social Security System, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1951;

“An Expanded Role for Social Work” in Social Work Education in the United States, Ed. E. V. Hollis and A. L. Taylor, New York, Columbia University Press, 1951;

“Fifteen Years under the Social Security Act: An Evaluation” in Current Issues in Social Security, Ed. L. MacDonald, New York University, Institute of Labor Relations and Social Security, 1951;

“The Doctoral Program: Progress and Problems” in Social Work Education in the Post-Master’s Program. No. 1: Guiding Principles, New York, Council on Social Work Education, 1953;

Comments on the Chamber of Commerce Social Security Proposals, Chicago, American Public Welfare Association, 1953;

Private and Social Insurance and the Problem of Social Security, Ottawa, Canadian Welfare Council, 1953;

“Significant Contemporary Issues in the Expansion and Consolidation of Government Social Security Programs” in Economic Security for Americans: An Appraisal of the Progress made from 1900 to 1953, New York, Columbia University Graduate School of Business, 1954;

“The Role of Government in Social Welfare” in The Social Welfare Forum, 1954, Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work, New York, Columbia University Press, 1954;

“The Financing of Social Welfare” in New Directions in Social Work, New York, Harper, 1954;

America’s Role in International Social Welfare (Editor), New York, Columbia University Press, 1955;

Social Security and Public Policy, New York, McGraw-Hill, 1956;

“Welfare Assistance” in A Report to the Governor of the State of New York and the Mayor of the City of New York, by the New York City Fiscal Relations Committee, New York, The Committee, 1956;

Papers and Proceedings of the Conference on Social Policy and Social Work Education, Arden House, April 1957 (Editor), New York, New York School of Social Work, Columbia University, 1957;

“Social Policy and the Social Work Curriculum” in Objectives of the Social Work Curriculum of the Future, by W. W. Boehm, New York, Council on Social Work Education, 1959;

“The Government’s Role in Child and Family Welfare” in The Nation’s Children, Vol. III: Problems and Prospects, Ed. Eli Ginsberg, New York, Columbia University Press, 1960;

“A Salute to Twenty-Five Years of Social Security” in Social Security: Programs, Problems and Policies, Ed. W. Haber and W. J. Cohen, Homewood (Illinois), R. D. Irwin, 1960;

“Issues in Social Security Financing” in Social Security in the United States: Lectures Presented by the Chancellor’s Committee on the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Social Security Act, Berkeley, University of California, Institute of Industrial Relations, 1961;

A Research Program for the Social Security Administration, Washington, U.S. Government Printer, 1961;

“Introduction” in Federal Grants and Public Assistance: A Comparative Study of Policies and Programmes in U.S.A and India, by Saiyid Zafar Hasan, Allahabad, Kitab Mahal, 1963;

“The Functions of Private and of Social Insurance” in Studi sulle assicurazione raccolti in occasione del cinquanterario dell’Istituto Nazionale della Assicurazioni, Ed. A. Giuffre, Milan, 1963;

“The Determinants of Policy” in In Aid of the Unemployed, Ed. J. M. Becker, Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins Press, 1965;

“Social Security in America: The Two Systems—Public and Private” in Labor in a Changing America, Ed. W. Haber, New York, Basic Books, 1966;

“Income Maintenance Policies and Early Retirement” in Technology, Manpower, and Retirement Policy, Ed. J. M. Kreps, Cleveland, World Publishing Co., 1966;

“The Challenge and the Potential of the Future” in Comprehensive Health Services for New York City (Report of the Mayor’s Commission on the Delivery of Personal Health Services), New York, The Commission, 1967;

“Foreword” in Poor Law to Poverty Program, by Samuel Mencher, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1967;

“The Future Course of Public Welfare” in Position Papers and Major Related Data for the Governor’s Conference, Albany (New York), New York State Board of Social Welfare, 1967;

Social Policy and the Health Services: The Choices Ahead, New York, American Public Health Association, 1967;

“Productivity and the Theory of Wages” in London Essays in Economics, Ed. T. E. Gregory and H. Dalton, London, G. Routledge, 1927; republished, Freeport (New York), Books for Libraries Press, 1967;

Children’s Allowances and the Economic Welfare of Children (Editor and Contributor), New York, Citizen’s Committee for Children, 1968;

“Needed Changes in Welfare Programs” in Urban Planning and Social Policy, New York, Basic Books, 1968;

“Social Security in Evolution—Towards What?” in Unions, Management and the Public, New York, Harcourt, Brace and World, 3rd edition, 1968;

“A Commentary on Gunnar Myrdal’s Essay on the Social Sciences and their Impact on Society” in Social Theory and Social Invention, Ed. H. D. Stein, Cleveland, Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1968;

“Welfare Reform and Income Security Policies” in The Social Welfare Forum, 1970, Proceedings of the National Conference on Social Welfare, New York, Columbia University Press, 1970;

“Health Care System” in Encyclopedia of Social Work, New York, National Association of Social Workers, 1971;

Articles in Economica, Journal of the American Statistical Association, Political Science Quarterly, Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, American Economic Review, The Family, Vassar Quarterly, Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv, Today, Survey Graphic, Law and Contemporary Problems, Independent Woman, Social Work Year Book, National Municipal Review, International Labour Review, Social Service Review, American Federationist, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Proceedings of the Second American Retail Federation Forum (1940), Journal of Educational Sociology, Welfare, Survey Midmonthly, National Municipal Review, Canadian Welfare, Bulletin of the New York School of Social Work, Public Affairs, Agenda, School and College Placement, Journal of Home Economics, Special Libraries, New York Times Magazine, The Nation, Journal of Educational Sociology, Smith College Studies in Social Work, Proceedings of the Ninth Canadian Conference on Social Work, 31st Annual Schoolmen’s Work Proceedings, Abstracts of Eight Sessions of the Institute on Social Security (1945), Social Service Review, Yale Law Journal, The Manchester School, The Compass, Tennessee Public Welfare Record, Proceedings of the New York State Conference on Social Work (1948), AAUW Journal, Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work, The Woman’s Press, Journal of Social Casework, Proceedings of the Second Annual Conference sponsored by the Pennsylvania Agency—School Committee on Preparation for Public Social Welfare and the Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Universities (1950), Survey, Proceedings of the Fourth Annual Meeting of the Industrial Relations Association (1951), Social Work Journal, American Journal of Nursing, Public Welfare News, Social Work, Michigan Welfare Journal, Papers and Proceedings of the Conference on Social Policy and Social Work Education (Arden House, 1957), Social Studies Kit, Council Women, The Club Woman and Her Community, Children, Proceedings of the Social Security Conference sponsored by the Labor and Industrial Relations Center (Michigan) (1960), Proceedings of the Ninth Annual Program Meeting of the Council on Social Work Education (1961), Fourteenth Annual Conference on Labor (1961), Employment Security Review, Public Welfare, Industrial Relations, Proceedings of the Seventh Annual Program Meeting of the Council on Social Work Education (1963), The Nation, Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, Public Interest, Current, Canadian Labor, Canadian Tax Journal, Proceedings of the Annual Conference of Industrial Relations Research Association (1965), Monthly Labor Review, Journal of Education for Social Work, Proceedings of the 20th Anniversary Meeting of the National Social Welfare Assembly (1966), New Directions in Public Policy for Health Care (The 1966 Health Conference), Public Health Reports, Hospital Topics, New Society, Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly, American Journal of Public Health, The Princeton Synposium on the American System of Social Insurance (1968), HSMHA Health Reports.

A Festschrift was published in honour of Professor Burns in 1969 under the title: Social Security in International Perspective: Essays in Honor of Eveline M. Burns, Ed. Shirley Jenkins, New York and London, Columbia University Press.

Address: 70 La Salle Street, New York 10027, and in Winter, Box 986, Christansted, St. Croix, US VI, 00820.

Professor Burns held her Professorship in the Department of Social Administration.


Eveline M. Burns



  1. Positions Held

(1)  Normal Full-time Positions

Name of Institution/Organization                                                       Title of Position                                                  Years of  Tenure          Compensation

Ministry of Labor, London, England                                       Junior Administrative Officer                                             1917-21                   £ 250

London School of  Economics, University of London         Assistant Lecturer    (On Leave 1926-8)                            1921-28                    £ 350

Graduate Department of  Economics,  Columbia University   Lecturer     (on leave 1940-2)                                      1928-42           $ 3000-3500

National Resources Planning Board, Washington, D. C.        Chief Economic  Security and Health Section              1940-3                      $ 7500

New York School of Social Work,  Columbia University         Professor of  Social Work and   Chairman and             1946 to date             $ 9500
Administrative Officer, Doctoral Committee

(2)  Special Assignments

London School of  Economics,                                                    Asst, Editor, Economica                                                         1922-6          cannot re-call

University of London Social Security Committee,                  Senior Staff  Officer                                                                   1937-9                $6500

Social Science Research Council

National Planning Association, Washington, D. C.                Consultant on Social Security                                                    1943-4             $7000

(3)  Visiting Professorships

Anna Howard Shaw Lecturer, Bryn Mawr College, 1944

Visiting Professor, Bryn Mawr College, 1945-6

Visiting Professor, Princeton University, 1951

I have also given short courses or individual lectures at the following institutions:

Department of Economics, University of Chicago

Smith College School for Social Work

Littauer Graduate School of Public Administration, Harvard Univ.

School of Applied Social Sciences, University of Pittsburgh

School of Applied Sciences, Western Reserve University

For several years I have conducted the Advanced Seminar arranged by the Social Security Administration for its senior staff, and have given brief seminars for foreign social security experts brought to this country by the Mutual Security Agency

(4)  Consultantships

Consultant, Committee on Economic Security, Washington, 1934-5

Principal Consulting Economist, Social Security Board, 1936-40

Consultant, Social Security Administration, 1948 to date

I have also served as consultant on specific issues to the:

United States Treasury

The Federal Reserve Board

The Works Progress Administration

The New York State Department of Labor


Adam Smith Medal for outstanding thesis of the year, 1926

Laura Spelman Rockefeller Fellowship, 1926-8

Guggenheim Fellowship, 1954-5

Florina Lasker Award (“for outstanding contributions in the field of Social Security”), 1960

Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters, Western College, 1962

Honorary LLD, Western Reserve University, 1963

Honorary Fellow, London School of Economics, 1963

Bronfman Lecturer, American Public Health Assn., 1966

Ittelson Medal (“for contributions to Social planning”), 1968

Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters, Adelphi University, 1968

Woman of Achivement Award, American Assn. of University Women, 1968

Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters, Columbia University, 1969


Member American Economic Association (Member of Executive Ctte, 1951-3  and Vice-President, 1953-4)

National Conference on Social Welfare (Secretary, 1955, First-Vice President, 1956 and President, 1957-58)

American Public Health Association (Vice-President, 1969-70)

Vice-President and President, Consumers’ League of New York, 1935-8

Member and Chairman of various committees, Federal Advisory Council on Employment Security, 1952-70

Member, Legislative Policy Committee, American Public Welfare Assn., 1956-68

Member, Steering Committee, White House Conference on Children, 1959-60

Member, Federal Advisory Committee on Area Redevelopment, Subsequently the National Committee on Regional Economic Development, 1961-69

Member, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Hobby’s Advisory Committee on Coverage Extension of the Social Security Act, 1953-4

American Delegate to International Conference on Social Welfare, 1958, and member of Steering Ctte and Vice-Chairman of Commission I

Chairman, Social Security Administration Advisory Committee on Long Range Research, 1961-5

Member, President Johnson’s Task Force on Income Security Policy, 1964

Member of Sub-Committee on Social Policy for Health Care and member of its Executive Committee, N. Y. Academy of Medicine 1964 to date

Member, Mayor Lindsay’s Commission on Delivery of Health Service in New York City, 1967-8

Member, National Council, American Assn. of University Professors 1961-4

Originally Published: Eveline Burns Papers. Box 1. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Social Welfare History Archives. Minneapolis, MN.

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Davidann, J & Klassen, D. (2002). Eveline Mabel Richardson Burns (1900-1985) — Social economist, author, educator and contributor to the development of the Social Security Act of 1935. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved [date accessed] from

2 Replies to “Burns, Eveline”

  1. If Witte was the “father of social security’, Eve Burns earned the unrecognized status of “Mother of Social Policy” (in US at least). Her insights into public policy and ‘dimensions of choices’ still define the basic contours of social policy. Pity that major social welfare policy texts don’t have much to add, let alone acknowledging her invaluable contributions.

    I had the great privilege of knowing, personally and professionally, Dr Burns. In a way, I owe my entire social work career to her. Social Work without EMBurns-like pioneering intellectuals is like physics without Einstein.

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