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"So You Think I Drive a Cadillac?" Welfare Recipients' Perspectives on the System and Its Reform



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  • "So You Think I Drive a Cadillac?": Welfare Recipients' Perspectives on the System and Its Reform
  • So You Think I Drive a Cadillac?: Welfare Recipients' Perspectives on the System And Its Reform
    So You Think I Drive a Cadillac?: Welfare Recipients' Perspectives on the System And Its Reform


This down to earth look at the welfare system provides readers with stories from welfare recipients themselves and from those who recently left welfare for work:

how they got onto welfare, what the reality of welfare (and welfare reform) is for them, issues in raising their families, their plans, hopes, and dreams are for the future, and some of the struggles they face as they try to leave the welfare system.

Welfare recipients who were interviewed by the author in Florida and Oregon share their perspectives on work requirements, family caps, time limits, and other features of the new welfare reform (TANF) program.

They discuss the importance of a livable wage and health insurance in providing the needed security to leave welfare for good. These qualitative interviews are theoretically grounded, and supplemented with up to date statewide and national data on welfare reform and its consequences.

The author says, “Underneath the political rhetoric and welfare statistics are real live human beings who are trying to make sense out of their lives.” Their voices provide a crucial counterpoint to the politicians and policy “experts” who have shaped the policy reform initiative. They show us that the so called welfare problem is related to the insecurity of low-tier work in the United States.

Author Biography

Karen Seccombe, M.S.W, Ph.D . is a Professor of Community Health at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.  She received her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Washington focusing on health and social welfare policy.  She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Washington State University, where she continued to develop her public policy interests in inequality, families, and health.  She is the author of Families and their Social Worlds (Pearson Allyn & Bacon), Families in Poverty (Pearson Allyn & Bacon),  Just Don’t Get Sick: Access to Health Care in the Aftermath of Welfare Reform , with Kim Hoffman (Rutgers University Press), and Marriage and Families: Relationships in Social Context , with Rebecca Warner (Wadsworth).  She is a Fellow in the National Council on Family Relations, and a member of the American Sociological Association and the Pacific Sociological Association.   Her current research explores the health care needs of families after they leave welfare. She resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband Richard and her young daughters, Natalie Rose and Olivia Lin, where they enjoy hiking, kayaking, and sampling all the kid-friendly local attractions. 

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introduction: Putting a Face on Welfarep. 1
Critical and Feminist Frameworksp. 6
Specific Contributions of This Study of Lived Experiencep. 8
Welfare and Public Policyp. 10
Where Are the Voices of Welfare Recipients in the Discussion?p. 14
A National Profile of Welfare Recipientsp. 15
Who Are the Participants in This Study?p. 20
Conclusion and Organizationp. 23
Critical Thinking Questionsp. 26
Historical and Persisting Dilemmas: How Do We Explain Poverty, What Should We Do about It?p. 27
History of Cash Assistancep. 28
Welfare Reform: "Ending Welfare As We Know It"p. 36
Explanations of Poverty and Welfare Usep. 39
Individualismp. 40
Social Structuralismp. 42
Culture of Povertyp. 44
Fatalismp. 45
Critical Thinking Questionsp. 46
Stigma and Discriminationp. 47
Awareness of Societal Attitudes Toward Welfare Recipientsp. 49
Racism and Welfarep. 51
Contexts Where Stigma and Discrimination Occurp. 55
Managing Stigmap. 58
Denialp. 58
Distancing Themselves from Other Welfare Recipientsp. 59
Blaming External Forces: "It's Not My Fault."p. 65
Extolling the Importance of Motherhoodp. 66
Critical Thinking Questionsp. 69
Why Welfare?p. 71
The Influence of Social Structurep. 74
Employmentp. 74
The Risk of Losing Health Insurancep. 76
Childcarep. 78
Fathers' Involvementp. 81
Transportationp. 82
Racism and Sexismp. 84
The Welfare System Breeds "Dependence" on the Systemp. 85
Fatalismp. 86
Bad Luckp. 86
Poor Healthp. 88
The Ending of Relationshipsp. 90
Violencep. 91
Why the Inconsistency Between Explanations of Their Own and Others' Use of Welfare?p. 93
Critical Thinking Questionsp. 96
Day-to-Day Living and Decision Makingp. 97
Daily Activities: Wild Living or Depressing Routine?p. 101
Making Ends Meet with "The Check"p. 102
Living and Surviving on Food Stampsp. 106
Juggling Billsp. 108
Coping with the Stressp. 110
Affording Life's "Luxuries"p. 112
Supplementing Welfarep. 115
Critical Thinking Questionsp. 117
Living and Surviving Welfare: The Importance of Family, Friends, and Formal Supportp. 118
Informal Support: Help from Families, Friends and Neighbors, and Children's Fathersp. 123
Assistance from Familiesp. 123
Assistance from Friends and Neighborsp. 127
Assistance from Children's Fathersp. 130
Formal Support: Help from Charities and Social Servicesp. 134
Working Side Jobs: Is This Fraud?p. 136
Critical Thinking Questionsp. 139
Insider's Perspectives on the Welfare Systemp. 140
Florida WAGES: A Case Examplep. 143
The Role of Governmentp. 145
Opinions of the Welfare Systemp. 147
Strengths of the Welfare Systemp. 148
Weaknesses of the Welfare Systemp. 150
Welfare Reformsp. 152
Time Limitsp. 152
Work Requirementsp. 155
Family Capsp. 158
Ideas for Reformp. 159
Improving the Welfare Systemp. 159
Improving the Structure of Low-Tier Workp. 161
Critical Thinking Questionsp. 163
Getting Off Welfarep. 164
The Women in the Middle: Increasing Human Capital Is Only One Answerp. 169
Education and Employment Trainingp. 170
Work Experiencep. 172
The Importance of Our Social Structurep. 174
Not Enough Jobsp. 175
Types of Jobs Available for Women on Welfarep. 176
The Value of Health Insurancep. 179
Why Some Women on Welfare Are Hesitant to Take Jobsp. 181
Critical Thinking Questionsp. 185
Conclusion: Lessons Learned and Visions of Changep. 186
The Gendered Nature of Welfare and Welfare Reformp. 187
Has Welfare Reform Been a Success or a Failure?p. 192
The Reasons for Its Failurep. 193
Insights from Other Countriesp. 195
Critical Thinking Questionsp. 200
Appendix: Websites of Interestp. 201
Referencesp. 206
Indexp. 217
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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