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Shapiro v. Thompson

Citation. 394 U.S. 618, 89 S.Ct. 1322, 22 L.Ed.2d 600 (1969).
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Brief Fact Summary.

This case arises from three separate federal appeals court cases holding unconstitutional 3 state statutes denying welfare to residents due to a residency requirement.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

State durational residency requirements for public assistance are unconstitutional.


This case arises from three federal appeals courts holding unconstitutional Connecticut, Pennsylvania. and Washington D.C. statutes denying welfare to residents who have not resided within their jurisdictions for at least one year.


Does the conditioning of state aid on various residency requirements violate the Equal Protection Clause?


Yes, the conditioning of state aid on various residency requirements violates the Equal Protection Clause.


Justice Warren

The Court’s previous cases on the right to travel lends little support to the view that congressional action is invalid merely because it burdens the right to travel. In this case, travel itself is not prohibited. Moreover, any burden inheres solely in the fact that a potential welfare recipient might take into consideration the loss of welfare benefits for a limited period of time if he changes his residence. There is little evidence that welfare recipients have in fact been deterred by residence requirements.

Justice Harlan

Strict scrutiny review is sound when applied to racial classifications, for historically the Equal Protection Clause was largely a product of the desire to eradicate legal distinctions founded upon race. However, when a classification is based upon the exercise of rights guaranteed against state infringement by the federal Constitution, then there is no need for any resort to the Equal Protection Clause. In such instances, this Court may properly and straightforwardly invalidate any undue burden upon those rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.


The various state statutes have the potential to inhibit individual’s fundamental right to interstate travel. As such, it must promote a compelling state interest. Under this standard, the waiting period requirement clearly violates the Equal Protection Clause. Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C., all failed to offer any compelling governmental reason for their requirements. The goal of simply attempting to distinguish between new and old residents on the basis of the tax contribution they have made to the community is constitutionally impermissible, given that it would serve to permit the state to apportion all benefits and services according to the past tax contributions of its citizens. It also deprives indigents of their fundamental right to interstate travel.

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