Life After Welfare: Reform and the Persistence of Poverty

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This way up: New thinking about poverty and economic mobility

Welfare did little more than allow these families to pay a utility bill, buy diapers, baby wipes, or some clothes for their children. It is therefore not surprising that in most cases reduced access to such paltry assistance did not produce dire results. Similarly, reform did not deliver the job opportunities and work supports promised by some proponents Haskins The families and community leaders interviewed here expressed disillusionment with what many had seen as the promise of PRWORA to deliver new opportunities.

The rhetoric of reform created expectations that participants would receive substantive assistance with education, training, and job placement. For the most part, those expectations were not met. Indeed, opportunities for education and training, and thus finding good work, appear to have existed in larger measure in these communities under the so-called welfare trap of Aid to Families with Dependent Children AFDC than exist under TANF Julnes, Hayashi, and Anderson , ; Seccombe, Walters, and James , Even though the poverty in these counties is exceptional, and the economies exceptionally weak, the conditions are nevertheless similar to the circumstances faced by other impoverished groups in the United States generally.

People who have long been marginalized in the mainstream U. Indeed, the urban poor are often located far from available jobs in suburban areas Wilson ; Newman An outside observer looking at the economy in the urban area might miss these pockets of poverty and thus fail to understand their isolation from the mainstream economy in the area. We might view the counties we consider here as such pockets stripped of the surrounding, and obfuscating, economic vibrancy.

In this sense, the lessons learned here have broader applicability.

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Respondents for this study were obtained through a nonrandomly selected sample of eight nonmetropolitan counties with long-standing rates of extremely high poverty. The counties were selected from the four major pockets of persistent rural poverty in the United States.

Life After Welfare: Reform and the Persistence of Poverty

Persistently poor counties are defined by the U. Department of Agriculture USDA as those exhibiting poverty rates of 20 percent or higher for the last four decennial censuses.

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Life After Welfare: Reform and the Persistence of Poverty [Laura Lein, Deanna T. Schexnayder, Karen Douglas, Daniel Schroeder] on *FREE*. A comprehensive, gripping study of how families have managed in post– welfare reform Texas, and of the themes that define life after welfare.

While these pockets of poverty lie within the boundaries of numerous states, we chose to select from only four South Dakota, Kentucky, Texas, and Mississippi in order to examine state-level variation in TANF administration. Within each state, the two persistently poor rural counties with the highest poverty rates according to the census were selected for in-depth case study to monitor the impacts of work-oriented welfare reform.

To capture the particular experience of welfare reform within the context of extreme rural poverty, we applied a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. The surprisingly limited secondary literature on any of these specific counties indicated the need for close ethnographic treatment of these communities.

To trace the initial and longer-term impacts of welfare reform, we conducted two sets of qualitative interviews. Between February and October of , we conducted in-person interviews with a total of 73 current and former TANF participants and 80 agency personnel, community leaders, and business owners within the states and counties. Between April and October , we conducted a second round of in-person interviews with another current and former TANF participants and agency personnel, community leaders, and business owners.

We selected the TANF participants through a snowball sampling technique. Interviews were conducted or facilitated by residents of each county who had experience working in the community, but were not employed by a state or county welfare agency for the key characteristics of the TANF participant interviewees, see Appendix A. The interviews consisted of questions from two standardized but open-ended questionnaires.

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While these pockets of poverty lie within the boundaries of numerous states, we chose to select from only four South Dakota, Kentucky, Texas, and Mississippi in order to examine state-level variation in TANF administration. The Weak and Tangled Safety Net. Contact Contact Us Help. Add a tag Cancel Be the first to add a tag for this edition. The International Migration Of Women. Working and Living in the Shadow of Economic Fragility. Includes bibliographical references p.

The community leader questionnaires covered local programs, responses to welfare reform, and economic development efforts and were further customized for social and human support service workers, educators, and business leaders. Interviews lasted from thirty minutes to over five hours. Data were also collected from national data archives such as the U. Census of Population and Housing, state and local government administrative records, and records of nongovernmental organizations for the period — The secondary data collection examined demographic, economic, and social conditions in these counties over the period immediately prior to and after welfare reform.

Because of the small population size within each of the counties and because the participants interviewed were not selected in a fashion that permitted statistical analysis, many of the empirical methods used in national studies of welfare reform were not possible or practical for this study.

The quantitative analysis also presents data on the clusters of persistently poor rural counties in which our case study counties are embedded.

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The clusters are comprised of counties that are contiguous to our case study sites as well as those which are contiguous to all of the counties that fall along a straight line drawn between the two sites in each state. South Dakota was the one exception to this selection rule, where all the rural counties in the state containing a reservation were selected. Data on the clusters represent more general conditions in the pockets of rural poverty see Appendix B for a list of all counties included in each cluster.

The monograph is structured as follows. Chapter 1 describes the nature of the regions and counties involved, explains the basics of welfare reform and what it replaced, and explicates the theoretical framework applied in this study. Part I analyzes what the numbers tell us about welfare reform in these eight persistently poor counties by comparing them to each other as well as to their respective states and the nation as a whole.

Each chapter addresses one of three key questions about welfare reform. Chapter 2 looks at what the numbers reveal in relation to caseload trends.

Chapter 3 explores what the numbers indicate happened to those participants who left the programs, and whether or not they were absorbed by local or regional labor markets. Chapter 4 examines statistical evidence for indications of how current and former TANF participants are doing in the wake of welfare reform in relation to poverty, family well-being, and community strength. In Part II, we turn to the qualitative evidence to examine how the statistical indicators are either supported or contradicted by what the people on the ground told us about welfare reform, local labor markets, and the well-being of their families and communities.

These chapters present the reader with a picture of the real opportunities available to TANF participants and the constraints associated with implementing TANF from the perspectives of participants, TANF administrators, county leaders, and other community members. The findings highlight the special social and political influences on labor markets in this area; the best and worst of interagency collaboration within the complexities of overlapping tribal, state, and federal jurisdiction; the often ambiguous and contradictory status of women and children within a native society impacted by a century of modernization policies; and the social, economic, and political alternatives to market ideology that are asserted within the broader context of these Lakota communities.

Combined with strong community leadership, high levels of community involvement, and interagency cooperation and facilitated in part by small, racially homogeneous populations, this liberality produced some positive responses to welfare reform.

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Chapter 7 examines welfare reform in Starr and Maverick counties, Texas, in the context of increasing in-migration and trade across, and development along, the Texas-Mexico border. Chapter 8 focuses on the Mississippi Delta. In Holmes and Sunflower counties, where devolution took the form of unguarded privatization, bureaucratic stringency, and cost shifting, welfare rolls plummeted but household hardships increased, leaving poor families to find employment in a shrinking and segregated labor market with minimal training or support for education.

Chapter 9 brings together the quantitative and qualitative pictures of TANF in these pockets of persistent poverty to examine similarities and differences in welfare reform across the focus counties, and to appreciate both the dreams and the disenchantments experienced by these communities, as well as the amazing diversity across places that are lumped together as uniformly poor. Overall, the nature of the local everyday economy, relationships of family and community, local administrative variability, and the potential dark side of devolution emerge as critical contexts for understanding the full import of welfare reform.

Summers, and David Mushinski. Most of the attention, however, has focused on urban rather than rural America. W elfare Reform in Persistent Rural Poverty examines welfare participants who live in chronically poor rural areas of the United States where there are few job opportunities and poor systems of education, transportation, and child care.

What the Numbers Tell Us 2. Changes in Public Assistance Program Use 3.

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What the People Told Us 5. Welfare Reform on the Reservation, South Dakota 6.

Welfare Reform in Persistent Rural Poverty

Welfare Reform in Appalachia, Kentucky 7. Welfare Reform in the Mississippi Delta, Mississippi 9. Under welfare reform, Texas has continued with low monthly payments and demanding eligibility criteria. Many families who could receive welfare in other states do not qualify in Texas, and virtually any part-time job makes a family ineligible. In Texas, most families who leave welfare remain in or near poverty, and many are likely to return to the welfare rolls in the future. This compelling work, which follows families after leaving welfare, is set against a backdrop of multiple types of data and econometric modeling.

Free Life After Welfare Reform And The Persistence Of Poverty

Survey data on health problems, transportation needs, and child-care issues shed light on the patterns of employment and welfare use seen in the administrative data. In their lives after welfare, the families chronicled here experience poverty even when employed; a multiplicity of barriers to employment that work to exacerbate one another; and a failing safety net of basic human services as they attempt to sustain low-wage employment. Families in a Changing Welfare Context pp. The Context for Texas Poverty and Welfare pp.

The Weak and Tangled Safety Net pp. Making a Living After Welfare: Where Does the Money Come From? Coping with Barriers to Self-Sufficiency pp.