The social work profession’s deepest roots are entwined through the knot that is poverty, from the time of the Elizabethan Poor Laws, which are usually cited as the first attempts at the policy of poverty management, to today’s “welfare reform” issues. Although the term “poverty” can be applied to relative depletion of any resource–of the spirit, of health, of attitude–the term usually refers to economic poverty. How one perceives poverty guides the approach to solving the problems associated with it. Social workers’ perspective on both the person (those who are poor) and the environment (the circumstances that produce poverty) have engaged this profession’s century-long efforts to mitigate the impact of poverty on people as well as to develop policies that either prevent poverty or ease poor people’s rise to greater economic security.
This Web page highlights social work related research that is aimed at not only understanding the dynamics of poverty, but also setting the stage for policy decisions based on our profession’s experience with what works and what must be done to make it work. From the early social work efforts to ameliorate poverty through the distribution of emergency food and funding assistance, through the settlement house movement efforts to create community- and self-sufficiency, through the federal War on Poverty programs and Welfare Rights movements to today’s development of social capital, social workers have been on the front lines of poverty work.
Indeed, many would say that our profession, more than any other, is engaged in working with poor people-those without health insurance, those who live in communities with broken infra-structures and no supermarkets, those who live on the basic incomes provided by Supplemental Security Income, and those who have never felt the dignity of having a job. Social workers see first-hand the debilitating effect of poverty on those struggling to patch together meager resources to pay all the bills. Social work’s concern with poverty is linked to the profession’s ethical norm of justice. As such, special attention is given to those who are not only poor, but are members of groups that often are excluded from pathways to self-sufficiency, such as women, children, and the mentally ill. Social workers also see the resilience and creativity of those who develop alternative economies and approaches to problem-solving in ways that other economic entrepreneurs might envy.
Researchers from social work and other disciplines have demonstrated what it takes to get people out of poverty and to keep people from falling into it. We know it takes a combination of education, support, resources and opportunity. We know that it takes a well-structured services-delivery system guided by committed and competent professionals.Promoting Economic Security through Social Welfare Legislation, NASW, 2003
The following resources and references demonstrate the range of theories and models that are developed and tested through poverty research. Not all of the researchers are professional social workers, but all teach or work in multi-disciplinary settings along with social workers.
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Organizations Engaged in Poverty Research
- Poverty and Social Justice Specialty Section (click on left menu item)
The NASW Specialty Practice Sections(SPS), are an essential resource for social workers whose interests and practice needs vary. They are designed to provide content expertise and inform members about current trends and policy issues that impact social work practice and service delivery. Specialty section access requires section membership in addition to regular membership. Benefits are listed at the NASW site.
- Economic Security Panel
In 2002 NASW President Terry Mizrahi appointed a seven-member Blue Ribbon Panel on Economic Security to amplify social work’s voice on national issues of poverty and to contribute to the debate over reauthorization of the 1996 welfare reform law, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act. Panel members assisted in bringing NASW’s message on welfare policies to legislators, the media, and to association members so they can participate effectively in advocacy. The panel’s report can be found at
University of Michigan
The Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy’s Program on Poverty and Social Welfare Policy , jointly managed by the Schools of Social Work, Public Policy, and Law, promotes interdisciplinary applied research on poverty and social welfare policy and works to translate research findings to public policy decision-makers.
The joint Project for Research on Welfare, Work, and Domestic Violence seeks to foster collaboration among researchers, policy makers, and community organizations which are concerned with the nexus of welfare and domestic violence issues. The Project provides national coordination of research and public education on the relationship of domestic violence to poverty and welfare use. It is a collaborative project of the Center for Impact Research (formerly the Taylor Institute) and the University of MichiganSchool of Social Work.
The NIMH Center for Research on Poverty, Risk, and Mental Health became part of the School of Social Work in July 1995 due to a five-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. Projects receive additional support from national and local foundations and other government agencies. Currently, more than 10 projects comprise the activities of the Center, which focuses on the theme of poverty and mental health.
National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP)
The NCCP of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health identifies and promotes strategies that prevent child poverty in the United States and improve the lives of low-income children and families. NCCP publishes The Forum , a newsletter reporting on the Research Forum studies. The NCCP Web site links to the Center’s publications.
University of Wisconsin-Madison: La Follett Institute of Public Affairs, School of Social Work, and Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP)
IRP is a center for interdisciplinary research into the causes and consequences of poverty and social inequality in the United States . It is based at University of Wisconsin-Madison. As one of three Area Poverty Research Centers sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it has a particular interest in poverty and family welfare in the Midwest . A rich array of poverty-related Web site links can be accessed at http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/irp/links/povlinks.htm
Washington University George Warren Brown School of Social Work Center for Social Development (CSD)
CSD’s work has focused on the following areas: (1) building assets of individuals and families, so they can invest in life goals such as homes, education, and enterprise development; (2) investing in people to increase participation in the economy and involvement in society; (3) promoting strong communities, active citizenship, mutuality, and interracial harmony; and (4) creating responsive and effective human service and community development organizations. CSD is the leading academic center of theory and research on asset building, i.e., strategies that promote saving and investment (in contrast to income and consumption). CSD’s work has focused particularly on including impoverished individuals, families, and communities in asset building. As a step toward this goal, CSD is designing and testing matched savings in the form of individual development accounts (IDAs).
Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)
The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) is a national non-profit that works to improve the lives of low-income people. CLASP’s mission is to improve the economic security, educational and workforce prospects, and family stability of low-income parents, children, and youth and to secure equal justice for all. To carry out this mission, CLASP conducts cutting-edge research, provides insightful policy analysis, advocates at the federal and state levels, and offers information and technical assistance on a range of family policy and equal justice issues for federal, state, and local policy makers, advocates, researchers, and the media. CLASP lists 552 publications in the past decade related to poverty.
Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.
Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. is known for its high-quality, objective research to support decisions about our nation’s most pressing social policy problems. The firm has conducted some of the most important studies of health care, welfare, education, employment, nutrition, and early childhood policies and programs in the United States . This research, which encompasses the human life span from children’s health and welfare to long-term care for elderly people, provides a sound foundation for decisions that affect the well-being of Americans.
Mathematica’s Welfare Policy Research helps federal officials get the information they need to make sound decisions about welfare and other publicly funded programs by evaluating welfare issues and modeling the impacts of welfare reform.
Seventeen publications are currently listed under the Mathematica Web site, by searching “poverty.”
The Brookings Institution, one of Washington’s oldest think tanks, is an independent, nonpartisan organization devoted to research, analysis, and public education with an emphasis on economics, foreign policy, governance, and metropolitan policy. Brookings research initiatives related to poverty fall under the headings of ” Economics , U.S. ” and “Economics, Global.” Entering the term “poverty” in the search box takes the reader to a ten-page set of studies on the subject conducted by Brookings. The following reports are of special interest:
- Welfare Reform & Beyond Initiative Home Page
- Poverty and Welfare Research Index http://www.brookings.edu/index/taxonomy.htm?taxonomy=Cities%20and%20Suburbs*Poverty%20and%20welfare
- Globalization and Inequality Group Project Home Page http://www.brookings.edu/gs/research/projects/glig/glig_hp.htm
The Urban Institute’s research measures effects, compares options, shows which stakeholders get the most and least, tests conventional wisdom, reveals trends, and makes costs, benefits, and risks explicit. A search of “poverty” produces 169 studies and reports conducted by the Institute. The Urban Institute is organized into Policy Centers, several of which relate to poverty.
- The Income & Benefits Policy Center studies how income support, Social Security, tax policy, and employee-benefit programs affect the economic well-being of families.
- The Center on Labor, Human Services and Population combines the former Labor and Social Policy staff with the previous Population Studies group, creating a research team able to track and analyze a broad range of safety net and demographic developments. Current projects delve into immigration, child welfare, child care, gay and lesbian demographics, homelessness, labor markets, domestic violence, and youth development.
- The Tax Policy Center (TPC) is a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution. TPC provides timely, accessible analysis and facts about tax policy to policymakers, journalists, citizens, and researchers.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (DHHS/ASPE)
ASPE is the principal advisor to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on policy development, and is responsible for major activities in the areas of policy coordination, legislation development, strategic planning, policy research and evaluation, and economic analysis.
The following references are selected from publications within the past five years. These articles were selected to demonstrate the range of social work research related to poverty, its causes, and its impact on people and related social systems. For additional research, visit the NASW Web page, Social Work Research Citations on Welfare at http://www.socialworkers.org/advocacy/welfare/citation/default.asp
Since 2000, several complete journal issues have been entirely devoted to poverty issues:
Special Journal Issues
Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare. 28(3): 109-127, Sept. 2001.
Journal of Poverty . 4(1/2): 27-62, 2000. (This issue focuses on Latino poverty.)
Journal of Poverty . 7(1/2): 51-67, 2003.
Social Thought 19(2): 1-5, 1999.
Social Work Research . 24(3): 131, Sept. 2000. This issue includes articles on kinship foster care, the effects of poverty on parenting and children’s behavior, group intervention with inmates, discharge from long-term psychiatric hospitals, and the application of a statistical procedure called multilevel covariance structure analysis.
The following articles are listed in order of year of publication, from 2004 to 1999.
Welfare recipiency and savings outcomes in individual development accounts.
Zhan, M., Sherraden, M. & Schreiner, M.. (2004, September).
Social Work Research , 28 (3), 165.
The authors examine how welfare recipiency is associated with savings outcomes in individual development accounts (IDAs), a structured savings program for low-income people. They investigated whether welfare recipients can save if they are provided with incentives. Data for this study are from the American Dream Demonstration, the first nationwide demonstration of IDAs. A Heckman two-step regression analysis suggests that, after controlling for a variety of program and participant characteristics, welfare recipiency, either before or at the time of enrollment in IDAs, is not correlated with program exits or savings outcomes. The findings suggest that welfare recipiency does not seem to affect savings performance.
Child care services in the JOBS program.
Hagen, J. L. (2004, August). Children & Youth Services Review , 26(8), 697-710.
The Jumpstart Our Business Strength (JOBS) legislation reflected the expectations that mothers, even those with young children, should participate in the labor force to increase their level of economic self-sufficiency. This change in expectations was accompanied by the recognition that, to fulfill these expectations, mothers needed access to child care services. In implementing the JOBS program and the associated child care provisions, states fulfilled their obligations to assure that child care was available and provided to at least enough JOBS participants to meet the federally mandated requirements for participation. However, such child care issues as funding, access, quality, and transportation emerged with the implementation of the JOBS program and can be anticipated to be significant concerns under the new welfare program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Additionally, under TANF, work expectations have been expanded but without a commitment to ensure child care services for those required to participate. http://search.epnet.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,url,uid&db=psyh&an=2004-18696-002
The potential of the SSI program to reduce poverty among the elderly.
Davies, P. S., Rupp, K. & Strand, A. (2004). Journal of Aging and Social Policy ,16(1), 21-41.
Is it more effective to reduce poverty among the elderly by increasing the benefits paid by the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program or by increasing eligibility for the program? This paper answers that question from a policy maker’s perspective. At given program cost levels, the authors compare the potential reduction in poverty from increasing benefit levels to the potential reduction associated with a variety of policy proposals that would increase eligibility for the program. This paper employs a microsimulation model containing an eligibility and benefits calculator, participation model, and an optimization algorithm. The data are from the Survey of Income and Program Participation supplemented by the administrative records of the SSI program. The results showed that increasing eligibility by relaxing the restrictions of the means tests can be more effective in reducing poverty than raising benefit levels.
Employment options for low-income women: Microenterprise versus the labor market.
Sanders, -C.K. (2004,June). Social Work Research, 28(2), 83-92.
This study builds on research that examines the effect of microenterprise on poor women in the United States . Household income, income from the XX business, and poverty status were examined over time and comparisons were drawn among three groups of women: low-income women who participated in one of seven U.S. microenterprise assistance programs; low-income, self -employed women not attached to microenterprise assistance programs; and low-income women working, but not self-employed. The findings cast doubt on the effectiveness of microenterprise assistance programs as an anti-poverty strategy in the United States . However, women in the three groups moved out of poverty at the same rate. Policy, program, and practice implications are discussed.
Long-term poverty among older women: The effects of work in midlife.
McNamara,J.M. (2004, May). Dissertation Abstracts : Bryn Mawr College , PhD.
Existing research on links between lifecourse events and later life economic well-being does not tend to emphasize the continuity of poverty and disadvantage among older adults. This study focuses on long-term economic hardship among older women, examining the effects of work history and other factors on the later life economic well-being of women who had low income in midlife. Data for this study came from the National Longitudinal Survey of Mature Women (NLSMW), and spanned the years 1967 to1999. A sample of 2,915 women was drawn from the NLSMW, with just over one third of this sample having had income below 200 percent of the poverty line in midlife. When controlling for other factors which affect later life income, it was found that the amount of work low-income women did in midlife had little effect on their later life economic outcomes, although job characteristics, such as unionization and the availability of fringe benefits, did have a positive effect on later life economic well-being. For women who had higher income at midlife, however, hours worked in midlife, irrespective of job characteristics, often had a positive impact on later life economic well-being.
Difficulties after leaving TANF: Inner-city women talk about reasons for returning to welfare.
Anderson , S.G., Halter, A.P.,& Gryzlak, B.M. (2004,April). Social-Work , 49(2), 185-194.
People who leave welfare commonly return, and this phenomenon has become more pressing in the time-limited Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Fostering stable TANF exits may be particularly difficult in poor inner-city areas because of job shortages and neighborhood deterioration. TANF leavers from five focus groups in Chicago give their perspectives about problems leading to welfare return. Participants indicated that low wages and unstable jobs were most often responsible for TANF returns. Obtaining health care and child care and inconsistent performance of TANF caseworkers were stressed as contributing factors. Participants also focused on strengths helpful in sustaining exits from TANF, particularly psychological benefits associated with working and informal supports received from family members and friends. The implications of recipient-identified problems and strengths are discussed, including balancing “work first” employment policies with substantive educational and job development policies. Strategies for improving the performance of TANF case planning are discussed.
Depression and poverty among African American women at risk for type 2 diabetes.
de Groot, M., Auslander, W., Williams, J. H., Sherraden, M. & Haire-Joshu, D.. (2003,Summer). Annals of Behavioral Medicine , 25(3), 172-181.
Poverty is associated with negative health outcomes, including depression. Little is known about the specific elements of poverty that contribute to depression, particularly among African American women at risk for type 2 diabetes. This study examines the relationships of economic and social resources to depression among African American women at high risk for the development of type 2 diabetes (N=181) using the Conservation of Resources theory as a conceptual framework. Women were assessed at three time points in conjunction with a dietary change intervention. Depressed women reported fewer economic assets and greater economic distress than non-depressed peers. Multivariate logistic regression analyses indicated that non-work status, lack of home ownership, low appraisal of one’s economic situation, low self-esteem, and increased stressful life events were significantly associated with depression at baseline. Longitudinal multivariate logistic regression models indicated that income, home ownership, future economic appraisal, life events, and self-esteem predicted depression trajectories at Time 3. Results highlight the multifaceted sources of stress in the lives of poor African American women. http://search.epnet.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,url,uid&db=psyh&an=2003-06158-004
Assets, expectations, and children’s educational achievement in female-headed households.
Zhan, M. &, Sherraden, M. (2003,June). Social Service Review , 77(2), 191-211.
This study examines the relationships of mothers’ assets (home ownership and savings) to mothers’ expectations of children’s educational achievement and children’s actual educational outcomes in female-headed households. Analysis of data from the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH) indicates that assets of single mothers are positively associated with children’s educational achievement and that this relationship is partially mediated through expectations. Positive association of household income with children’s outcomes occurs mainly through mothers’ assets. The study indicates that regression models that include income but not assets are underspecified. Results support expansion of asset-based policies for poor women with children.
Exit from poverty: How “welfare mothers” achieve economic viability.
Strother, P.A. (2003). Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment , 7(3/4), 97-119.
There is a large body of research about the characteristics of people in poverty with regard to demographic structures, social stratification, and income differentials, but the processes by which poor people accomplish improvement in their economic situations is a neglected area of research. Using qualitative procedures, data analysis of interviews with 19 Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC)-dependent female heads-of-households who received public assistance for at least five consecutive years between 1970 and 1990, and who exited both public assistance and poverty by means other than marriage or cohabitation, resulted in the emergence of a three-part success configuration. Paradoxically, the subjects’ concerns were not primarily about exiting welfare, but rather were focused on broader life goals more in keeping with the aspirations of those in the economic mainstream. Applications of the findings to social work direct practice focus on the challenges of understanding clients’ perceptions and supporting their goals, while dispelling the persistent myths about the poor. Applications to social welfare policy focus on the need to develop policy initiatives that would allow increased monetary assistance to the poor. (This is one of 12 articles in this special issue on women and girls in the social environment.)
Feeling poor: The felt experience of low-income lone mothers.
McIntyre, L., Officer, S. & Robinson, L. M. (2003, Fall). AFFILIA-Journal of Women and Social Work , 18(3), 316-331.
This article describes what it means to feel poor from the perspective of low-income lone mothers. The construct of feeling poor is complex and multifaceted for these mothers whose common behaviors include self -sacrifice and coping. The authors identify 10 feeling domains for these mothers: feeling deprived, feeling righteous, the need for occupational choice, relatively better positioned than others, the need to manage the appearance of poverty, and feeling judged/degraded, guilty, isolated, dependent, and despondent.
The effects of EITC and children’s allowances on the economic well-being of children.
Ozawa, -M. N. & Hong, B. E. (2003, September). Social Work Research , 27(3), 163-178.
This article introduces the concept of children’s allowances as a strategy for the redistribution of income to children. It also reports the findings of an empirical study on the distributive effects of a children’s allowance program and an improved earned income tax credit (EITC), separately and in combination. The source of data for the study was the 1999 Current Population Survey. The study found that these programs would greatly increase the income statuses and reduce the poverty rates of all children in this country, but especially of EITC-recipient children and children in large families, among whom black and Hispanic children are overrepresented. Implications for policy are discussed.
Political promises for welfare reform.
Segal, E. A, & Kilty, K. M. (2003). Journal of Poverty , 7(1/2), 51-67.
Public debate by policy makers prior to the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWOR) reflected a common set of attitudes and beliefs of those in power about public assistance and the poor. The power of their language to shape and inform policy is significant in our society. Those who hold power use language to mold and rationalize public policies. From a critical theory perspective, examination of the use of language by those in power to set norms, disempower, and marginalize those people who are nondominant is vital to effective social change. This research critically examines the speeches given on the floor of the House of Representatives prior to the final vote of PRWOR on July 31, 1996 , to identify the power of language. Findings reveal that the content of the speeches reflects maintenance of the status quo and continued marginalization of the poor, particularly women. (This is one of nine articles in this special issue on poverty and inequality in the United States .)
Poverty level and school performance: Using contextual and self-report measures to inform intervention.
Chapman, M. V. (2003, January). Children and Schools , 25(1), 5-17.
Delineating how the social context affects their school clients may be difficult for many school social workers. This article presents a simple statistical approach, accessible to master’s level practitioners, to incorporate the effect of the social context of poverty in intervention planning. This study is a cross-sectional investigation of associations between students’ perceptions of their social environment and academic outcomes. A series of Pearson correlation matrices was used to assess the effect of low, moderate, and high levels of poverty on these associations. The results suggest that contextual factors influence students over and above their perceptions of their environment and demonstrate the value of considering the social context in which a student lives when choosing interventions.
Returns to welfare under welfare reform: Early patterns and their implications.
Born, C. E., Ovwigho, P.C.& Cordero, M. L. (2002). Administration in Social Work, 26(3), 53-69.
The federally-imposed lifetime limit on cash assistance receipt compels program administrators to examine returns to welfare. The authors explore recidivism among a random sample of 2,665 Maryland families who left welfare between October 1994 and December 1997. Using administrative data, they compare the demographic characteristics, welfare histories, and work histories of recidivists and non-recidivists. Results indicate that most families do not return to welfare within a year. However, almost one-third do return, often within the first 30 days. This rarely investigated “administrative churning” phenomenon is important because of the federal time limit, the valuable agency resources which are consumed in handling churning cases, and the possible negative consequences of churning on family well-being.
Substance abuse among welfare recipients: Trends and policy responses.
Pollack, H. A., Danziger, S., Seefeldt, K. S.& Jayakody, R.(2002, June). Social Service Review, 76(2), 256-274.
Substance use by welfare recipients is frequently mentioned as a barrier to well-being and social performance. This article uses nationally representative cross-sectional data and Michigan-specific panel data to summarize trends in substance use among AFDC/TANF recipients. It also examines the prevalence of substance dependence within the welfare population. Although almost 20 percent of welfare recipients report recent use of some illicit drug during the year, few satisfy criteria for drug or alcohol dependence as indicated by the short-form Composite International Diagnostic Interview. The article concludes by considering policy responses to substance use disorders following welfare reform. http://search.epnet.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,url,uid&db=psyh&an=2002-01209-003
Issues in implementing TANF in New York : The perspective of frontline workers.
Hagen, J. L., Owens-Manley, J. (2002, April). Social Work, 47(2), 171, 12p.
The study discussed in this article examined the perspectives of front-line welfare workers on issues related to the implementation of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): domestic violence, work requirements, time limits for cash benefits, and functions of workers. Based on focus groups held in upstate New York, findings suggest a lack of criteria for the granting of exemptions from TANF requirements, worker resistance to serving those caught in the cycle of violence, and congruence between the legislation’s “work first” strategy and worker preference. However, participants identified limitations to employment-focused welfare programs, including restrictions on education and job preparation. Further research is needed on the implementation of TANF, including use of the Family Violence Option, and the use of administrative discretion by front-line workers. http://search.epnet.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,url,uid&db=pbh&an=6636497
Welfare reform on American Indian reservations: Initial experience of service providers and recipients on reservations in Arizona.
Pandey, S., Brown, E. F., Scheuler-Whitaker, L. & Collier-Tenison, S. (2002). The Social Policy Journal , 1(1), 75-97.
This article documents trends in welfare caseloads and some initial experiences of service providers and welfare recipients on reservations in Arizona under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The authors document the issues and concerns of state and tribal service providers as they implement the legislation on reservations that are often geographically isolated and which lack infrastructure, jobs, child care, and transportation. Also recorded are experiences of women with children on reservations with the 1996 federal welfare legislation. These families experience similar barriers when trying to move from welfare to work as do their counterparts across the country; however, these barriers are magnified on reservations. The welfare recipients’ barriers include: a shortage of employment opportunities on reservations; a lack of transportation and child care facilities; low levels of education and job experience; and, individual and family problems. Poor families in Indian communities face additional barriers to employment because of their geographic isolation, lack of access to basic necessities (like telephones), as well as stereotypes and discrimination by employees due to ethnicity or personal/family histories.
Immigrants’ use of welfare after welfare reform: Cross-group comparison.
Lim, Y. & Resko, S. M. (2002). Journal of Poverty, 6(4), 63-82.
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWOR) of 1996 represented a significant shift in U.S. public policy, rendering immigrants ineligible for most federal means-tested programs. The authors used the 1999 Current Population Survey (CPS) data set to provide the cross-sectional description of immigrants’ use of public transfer programs, particularly focusing on Asian American immigrants. Little is currently known about the economic well-being of Asian immigrants and their program participation in the wake of recent welfare reform. This research contributes to the knowledge of Asian immigrants’ reliance on public assistance and their sociodemographic characteristics in comparison with other racial/ethnic groups. (This is one of five articles in this special issue on inequality among Asian Americans.)
Introduction: Pressing issues of inequality among Asian American communities.
Kilty, K. M., Segal, E. A. & Kim, R. Y. (2002). Journal of Poverty (entire-issue), 6(4), 1-3.
Race and ethnicity figure prominently in analyses of poverty and inequality in this country. The extent of poverty, whether for individuals, families, or children, has been well-documented for Native Americans, African Americans, and Latinos. The profound impact of discrimination and limitations on opportunities for these groups has also received considerable attention. Yet there is one exception to this examination of poverty and inequality: Asian Americans. To a large extent, that is due to the belief that Asian Americans represent the “model minority” in American society, and that they illustrate how well the American Dream really works for those who are willing to apply themselves. In contrast to other racial and ethnic groups, Asian Americans represent a group that has worked hard to achieve success in this society. They go to school and earn degrees that allow them to enter well paying professional occupations or start their own businesses and put in the long hours necessary to ensure success. (This special issue contains five articles that examine aspects of poverty and inequality for Asian Americans in this society.)
Mental health barriers to employment for TANF recipients.
Stromwall, L. K. (2002). Journal of Poverty, 6(3), 109-120.
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program’s main outcome goal of caseload reduction has resulted in a blanket attempt to reduce caseloads across all populations of TANF recipients, even though it is widely acknowledged that many TANF recipients may have significant barriers to employment. This study examines the mental health-related quality of life and related characteristics of female TANF recipients and nonrecipients, aged 18-40, receiving publicly funded mental health service (N=487) to identify potential barriers to employment among TANF recipients in this group. TANF recipients reported significantly more distress and functional limitations related to their mental health than nonrecipients. This subgroup of TANF recipients is in need of specific attention from both the public welfare and mental health systems. The barriers to employment and the public policy goals of welfare reform related to this population are discussed. (Journal abstract.)
Two strikes against them? Exploring the influence of a history of poverty and growing up in an alcoholic family on alcohol problems and income.
Kost, K. A, & Smyth, N. J. (2002). Journal of Social Service Research, 28(4), 23-52.
The relationship between poverty and substance abuse is complex and mitigated by many factors. While poverty is a risk factor for adolescent substance abuse, there is little research documenting the relationship beyond adolescence. Using a systematic sample of 1,268 cases from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, this study investigated whether there are synergistic, intergenerational effects of poverty and alcoholism. Results suggest that a co-occurring history of family alcoholism and poverty has a nonlinear relationship with alcohol problems and income as an adult. Young adults who were poor six or more years and lived with an alcoholic relative for nine or more years are at greater risk of having low income and problems with alcohol as an adult compared to others. Implications for policy, practice, and future research are discussed.
The psychology of poverty: Professional social work and aid to dependent children in postwar America , 1946-1963.
Curran, L. (2002, September). Social Service Review, 76(3), 365-386.
Through a primary source analysis of professional and academic social work writings, this article describes how post World War II (1946 to 1963) social work researchers, educators, and clinical theorists adopted a psychological discourse to explain welfare use among single mothers. Faced with a postwar backlash against the federal entitlement program for single mothers and their children, Aid to Dependent Children, social work scholars drew on psychological narratives to protect recipients against charges of immorality and restrictive state measures. Armed with this new paradigm, many social workers theorized a distinct psychology of poverty, carved out a professional niche, and called on the federal government to provide individualized, quasi-therapeutic services to its constituency.
Beyond welfare or work: Teen mothers, household subsistence strategies, and child development outcomes.
Almgren, G., Yamashiro, G. & Ferguson, M. (2002, September). Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 29(3), 125-149.
There is probably no aspect of the work versus welfare debate that is more contested than the effects of welfare use on child development outcomes. Liberals tend to emphasize the detrimental effects of poverty and welfare stigma on children, while conservatives cite the negative socialization that occurs regarding the value of work within welfare-dependent families. However, large-scale longitudinal studies that have been used to address this question only indirectly measure critical influences on child development, such as maternal mental health, and do not consider the effect that a range of economic strategies that low-income mothers might undertake may have on their children. In this analysis, the authors employ data from a longitudinal study of 173 teen mothers to assess the relative effects of maternal characteristics and economic strategies on the developmental outcomes of their children at time of school entry. Two principal findings emerge. First, over the period from their first teen birth to the reference child’s entry into school, the sample subjects used a variety of household economic strategies aside from the simple welfare versus work dichotomy that is commonly used to depict the choices of teen mothers. Second, while maternal depression appears linked to the prevalence of problem behaviors in early childhood, the particular economic strategies used by the mothers in the sample do not explain any variation in either the prevalence of problem behaviors or in children’s learning preparation for school entry. These findings support the perspective that the influence of teen mothers’ parenting qualities on child development cannot be assessed through an analysis of their labor force participation, use of welfare, or other strategies of household subsistence.
Welfare recipients: How do they become independent?
Cheng, T. (2002, September). Social Work Research, 26(3), 159-170.
This research used data concerning recipients’ employment, receipt of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), receipt of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and poverty status to develop a typology of adaptations by welfare recipients. Using U.S. Department of Labor survey data, a sample of AFDC/TANF recipients was analyzed through event history analysis. The results show that welfare reforms launched in 1996 moved dependent recipients out of welfare but had no effect on working recipients’ chances of leaving welfare. New two-year limits on unbroken program participation (and a five-year lifetime limit) pushed many unprepared recipients into poverty, working or not. Economic conditions became worse for working poor people than for those on welfare. The study also found that some former welfare recipients did go to work and eventually leave welfare and poverty. Occupational skills, work experience, child support, marriage, and experience in dependency or supplementation were among the factors promoting such a change.
Welfare use as a life course event: Toward a new understanding of the U.S. safety net.
Rank, M. R. & Hirschl, T. A. (2002, July). Social Work, 47(3), 237-248.
What proportion of the American population uses a social safety net program during the course of adulthood? To address this question, the authors constructed a series of life tables using 30 years of longitudinal data. The results indicate that two-thirds of Americans between the ages of 20 and 65 will at some point reside in a household that receives benefits from a means-tested welfare program (food stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, or other cash welfare). Such assistance is often in the form of in-kind programs, such as food stamps or Medicaid. The findings also indicate that the use of welfare tends to take place over fairly short intervals of time. For example, although 65 percent of Americans will use welfare by age 65, only 15.9 percent will do so for five or more consecutive years. However, once the use of welfare occurs, it is quite likely to occur again at some point during adulthood. Results suggest that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the use of the United States social safety net is a mainstream experience.
Living on the edge: Examination of people attending food pantries and soup kitchens.
Biggerstaff, M. A., Morris, P. M. & Nichols-Casebolt, A. (2002, July). Social Work, 47(3), 267-277.
This article presents information from a study of people receiving food assistance services from food pantries and soup kitchens in Virginia . The data indicate that significant numbers of individuals and families–many of whom are employed–are seeking food assistance. Many of these individuals also have been homeless, victims of domestic violence, unable to pay their utility bills, or have lost their public benefits. A critical issue raised by the findings is the low rate of participation in the Food Stamp Program (FSP). Fewer than 40 percent of the respondents were receiving food stamps. Although the FSP is intended to help households buy a nutritionally adequate diet, there is growing concern that a large segment of low-income Americans are slipping through this safety net. The article concludes with suggestions for social work interventions to address issues of food security.
Changing safety net of last resort: Downsizing general assistance for employable adults.
Anderson, S. G., Halter, A. P. &; Gryzlak-B. M. (2002,July). Social Work, 47(3), 249-258.
General Assistance (GA) has served as an income support program of last resort for people not eligible for other programs. Because each state has complete discretion to design its program, the GA services model parallels Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in its reliance on decentralized government decision-making. Thus, GA programs can provide lessons about services variability and common program features that have arisen in a decentralized income support system. This study examined the characteristics of state GA programs across several program dimensions: eligibility criteria, work requirements, time limits, administrative arrangements, and caseloads. The authors show that GA programs have changed from 1989 to 1998. Although most states retained GA programs in some form, caseloads declined as a result of tightening eligibility requirements for people considered employable. This casts doubt on the viability of GA as a safety net program for economically vulnerable people.
The impact of microenterprise assistance programs: A comparative study of program participants, nonparticipants, and other low-wage workers.
Sanders, C .K. (2002,June). Social Service Review, 76(2), 321-340.
Microenterprise has gained attention as a strategy to promote economic well-being among the poor, but there is relatively little research to suggest whether microenterprise programs work. This study uses existing data to compare three groups: low-income microentrepreneurs who participated in one of seven U.S. microenterprise assistance programs, low-income self-employed workers not attached to microenterprise assistance programs, and low-income wage workers not self-employed. Analyses of household income and poverty status over time fail to suggest that microenterprise program make significant gains for participants.
Poverty, parenting, peer, and neighborhood influences on young adolescent antisocial behavior.
Eamon, M. K. (2001). Journal of Social Service Research, 28(1), 1-23.
Data from a sample of 963, 10-to-12-year-old children from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth were used to evaluate the parenting practices and environmental influences that explain the relation between poverty and antisocial behavior two years later. Results indicate that deviant peer pressure and neighborhood problems partially mediate the relation between poverty and young adolescent antisocial behavior. The parenting practices and environmental influences that predict antisocial behavior do not vary by the child’s gender or race/ethnicity, and vary little by the child’s age. Findings suggest that when environmental risk is high, authoritarian parenting strategies result in lower levels of antisocial behavior.
After welfare reform and an economic boom: Why is child poverty still so much higher in the U.S. than in Europe ?
Danziger, S. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Foundation for International Studies on Social Security (8th, Sigtuna , Sweden , June 16-19, 2001 ).
This paper argues that the U.S.’s experience during the economic boom of the 1990s, together with its choices concerning social welfare policies, imply that child poverty in the United States will be much higher than that in most European countries. It hypothesizes that Americans reveal their preferences about the extent of poverty they are willing to tolerate through their public policy choices. Poverty is not very high on their agenda, and they are content to live in a society that has more economic hardship than most Europeans would tolerate. Poverty is high in the United States because Americans want to increase work among the poor and give themselves tax cuts more than they want to reduce poverty. The paper reviews the major welfare reform proposals put forward after the 1960s, emphasizing the rise and fall of poverty reduction as a social policy and the emergence of personal responsibility as the replacement goal. It suggests that if poverty is to be significantly reduced in the near term, people must demonstrate a greater willingness to spend public funds to help turn a cash-based safety net into a work-oriented safety net. http://search.epnet.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,url,uid&db=eric&an=ED459296
Everyone is still on welfare: The role of redistribution in social policy.
Abramovitz, M. (2001, October). Social Work, 46(4),297, 12p, 6 charts.
Most people have an inaccurate assessment of who is “onwelfare.” Two decades have passed since Social Work published the original version of this article, which applied Titmuss’s framework of a three-tiered social welfare system and showed that nearly “everyone is on welfare.” Based on new data and a more in-depth analysis, this article re-examines who benefits from and who pays for social, fiscal, and corporate welfare and concludes that all three welfare systems continue to serve and to favor the middle class, wealthy households, and large corporations. Social workers can work to transform the system from one that rewards power and privilege to one that ensures distributivejustice for all.
Faith, hope, and mutual support: Paths to empowerment as perceived by women in poverty.
Andrews, A. B., Guadalupe, J. L. &; Bolden, E. (DATE). Journal of Social Work Research and Evaluation. 4(1).
This article reveals innovative empowerment perspectives generated from a qualitative study involving economically poor rural women in the southern United States . The analysis yielded a fresh definition of empowerment, grounded in the participants’ perspectives, that highlights interpersonal connections, intrapersonal attitudes of optimism and trust, motivation to resist oppression, and faith in spiritual power. Constructs implicit in this definition can guide the development of measurement tools for use in studies of empowerment. Implications for social work practice are discussed. (This is one of nine articles in this issue on advancement and empowerment of women.)
Assets, future orientation, and well-being: Exploring and extending Sherraden’s framework.
Shobe, M. & Page-Adams, D. (2001, September). Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 28(3), 109-127.
Reducing the incidence and impact of poverty has been central to social work practice since the birth of the profession (Addams, 1910; Franklin, 1986). The prevailing anti-poverty paradigm holds that well-being is almost exclusively dependent upon income. Social work scholar and educator, Michael Sherraden (1988; 1991) suggests a new anti-poverty paradigm whereby combined income and asset building initiatives may improve the well-being of poor households. Sherraden (1991) suggests that assets have positive effects on well-being, including future orientation. The extended conceptual framework suggested here further specifies that future orientation has a direct role in its relationship with assets and well-being. (This is one of 10 articles in this special issue on evaluation of TANF.)
Maternal depression and physical punishment as mediators of the effect of poverty on socioemotional problems of children in single-mother families.
Eamon, M. K. & Zuehl, R. M. (2001, April). American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 71(2), 218-226.
Data from a national sample of 878 4- to 9-year-old children in single-mother families were used to test a structural model of the effect of poverty on children’s socioemotional problems. Results show that the effect of poverty is mediated by maternal depression and mothers’ use of physical punishment. Maternal depression influences children’s socioemotional problems directly, as well as indirectly, through physical punishment.
Material hardship in the United States : Evidence from the survey of income and program participation.
Beverly, S. G. (2001, September). Social Work Research, 25(3), 143-151.
Measures of material hardship, which identify households that do not consume minimal levels of basic goods and services such as food, housing, and medical care, provide important information about well-being. The research discussed in this article used nationally representative data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation to document the prevalence of material hardship in the U.S. population and in several subgroups in 1995; and the most common hardships were medical need and food insufficiency. Poor individuals, children, African Americans, Hispanics, and those in single-parent households were particularly vulnerable to hardship. In addition, there is evidence that working households are more vulnerable to hardship–especially medical need–than measures of income-poverty suggest. (Journal abstract.)
Perceptions among social work and non-social work students concerning causes of poverty.
Sun, A. P. (2001, Winter). Journal of Social Work Education, 37(1), 161-176.
Feagin’s Poverty Scale was used to measure social work students’ and non-social work students’ perceptions of the causes of poverty. Present social work students, like previous ones, attribute poverty more to structural factors than individual factors. Further analysis, however, suggests that this may only be true for female and white social work students. Male and nonwhite social work students appear to attribute poverty to both structural and individual factors. White social work students perceive structural factors as more important in causing poverty than white non-social work students. Non-social work students did not overwhelmingly attribute poverty to individualistic factors as expected.
The interconnection of childhood poverty and homelessness: Negative impact/points of access.
Schmitz, C. L., Wagner, J. D. & Menke, E. M. (2001, Jan.-Feb.). Families in Society, 82(1), 69-77.
Child poverty negatively impacts the development of children; family homelessness compounds the issues. Both have dramatically increased over the past two decades with far-reaching, poorly understood consequences. The impact of the instability of poverty and homelessness on children is often hidden or difficult to comprehend. Few studies critically examine the impact on a child’s sense of safety and security. Using mixed method inquiry, this research sought to examine the effects of poverty and homelessness on children 8 to 12 years of age. The voices of the children illuminate the underlying strengths and vulnerabilities. Results indicate that homelessness leaves children feeling a decreased sense of support and an increased sense of isolation.
Child care in the wake of welfare reform: The impact of government subsidies on the economic well-being of single-mother families .
Meyers, M. K., Han, W.J., Waldfogel, J. & Garfinkel, I. (2001, March). Social Service Review, 75(1), 29-56.
Using microsimulation techniques to estimate the impact of welfare reform in New York , the authors find that five years after federal and state reforms, child care use and costs will rise substantially and families will bear most of these costs. When family incomes are adjusted for child-care costs, most single-mother families will continue to be poor even with greater earnings, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and food stamps. The distribution of child-care costs between government and families, and the implications for poverty, will depend on the extent to which government subsidizes the child-care costs of single mothers.
Between imprisonment and integrity: Rural churches respond to poverty and policy.
Hemert, K. A. (2000, Fall). Social Work and Christianity, 27(2), 188-217.
This article reports findings from investigations of what rural church leaders think about the new welfare law, what anti-poverty service programs they offer their impoverished communities, and what narrative themes emerge from discussion of poverty policy. Given the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) “Charitable Choice” provisions, which authorize states to contract with religious congregations, church groups may become more significantly involved in social service provision. Ethnographic study of two African American churches in rural Georgia and two Caucasian churches in rural Colorado reveal widespread and strong agreement with PRWORA’s treatment of time-limited case assistance, teen pregnancy rates, and work requirements. Attitudes regarding appropriate church and government roles in serving impoverished people and the programs these churches operate were also analyzed. Themes of “imprisonment” and “integrity” appear as frameworks underlying poverty policy attitudes, told through stories of slave quarters, cemeteries, funeral homes, school bus snow tragedies, and public restrooms. Future poverty policy development would be enhanced by attention to these themes. (This is one of five articles in a special issue on Charitable Choice.)
Social and environmental predictors of maternal depression in current and recent welfare recipients.
Siefert, K., Bowman, P.J., Heflin, C. M., Danziger, S. & Williams, D. R. (2000, October). American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 70(4), 510-522.
Depression is highly prevalent in welfare recipients and is associated with failure to move from welfare to work. This paper examines the relationship between social and environmental factors in a large community-based sample of mothers who currently or recently received welfare benefits. Specific and modifiable risk factors related to poverty, gender, and race were found to predict major depression beyond traditional risk factors. Research and practice implications are discussed.
The nature of social work services in a large public medical center serving an impoverished multicultural population .
Subramanian, K. (2000). Social Work in Health Care, 31(2), 47-64.
This paper describes the nature of social work services in a large public medical center serving an impoverished multicultural population. This monitoring evaluation was developed and conducted in a research collaboration between a school of social work and a team of clinical workers, supervisors, and administrators from the social work department of the medical center. The paper includes a description of the development of the assessment instrument as well as the findings, including the categories of sociodemographics, assessments, and services delivered by medical social workers. Conclusions emphasize the degree of anxiety and depression in the patients and their families and the need for clinical social workers to be skilled in the multicultural assessment and treatment of these problems. This need is then put into the context of the current health care climate.
Asset building: Integrating research, education, and practice.
Sherraden, Mi. & Sherraden, Ma. (2000, Spring). Advances in Social Work, 1(1), 61-77.
Asset building is an emerging concept in anti-poverty work in economically advanced nations. In the past, welfare states have defined poverty primarily in terms of income. Although income is necessary to maintain consumption, saving and investment is also necessary if families and communities are to progress out of poverty over the long term. Asset building is a broad idea with many possible applications, including home ownership, microenterprise, and individual development accounts (IDAs). IDAs are matched savings accounts for low-wealth families. In this paper, the authors (1) describe asset building as a policy and practice innovation; (2) discuss results from two research projects, one on IDAs and a second on microenterprise; and (3) illustrate a strategy for education and advocacy. This work may serve as an example of simultaneous advances in research, education, and practice, wherein strongest advances in social work proceed not by the separation of ideas, study, and application, but by their integration and mutual reinforcement.
Second-generation parenthood: A panel study of grandmother and grandchild co-residency among low-income families, 1967-1992.
Caputo, R. K. (2000, September). Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 27(3), 3-20.
This paper reports findings of a national study of low-income co-resident grandmothers and grandchildren between 1967 and 1992. A small, increasing minority of women was found to reside with their grandchildren in low-income families over the study period, although the proportion of those who did declined as they reached retirement age. More than half of ever co-resident low-income grandmothers (N = 776) were second-generation parents for three or more years. The majority (64%) was black. Among ever co-resident low-income grandmothers in 1992 (N = 521), being black and being single increased the likelihood of being a second-generation parent. Previous low-income co-residency also predicted low-income co-residency in 1992. Further, older low-income second-generation parents were more likely to reside in skipped vs. three-generation families, as were those outside the South. The author argues that low-income co-resident grandmothers may be adversely affected by time limits associated with the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWOR). Changes to the PRWOR and the Earned Income Tax Credit are discussed. (Journal abstract.)
Self-employment, microenterprise, and the poorest Americans.
Schreiner, M. (1999, December). Social Service Review, 73(4), 496-523.
Some advocates of microenterprise programs (MEPs) claim that sel -employment is a good way to help people on welfare. Although MEPs do increase the relative rate of movement from welfare to self-employment, the change in the absolute number of people who move is probably less than 1 in 100. Most poor Americans who use MEPs are not among the poorest. Rather, they have the most assets, the most years of school, the most skills and experience, the strongest support networks, and one or more wage jobs. Cost-effectiveness analysis is an inexpensive first step to evaluate whether MEPs are good public investments.
The impact of welfare reform for families with children: Evidence from New York : A report of the New York City Social Indicators Center , Columbia Univ. School of Social Work.
Waldfogel, J., Villeneuve, P. &; Garfinkel, I. (2000). Journal of Social Service Research, 26(4), 1-27.
This paper uses data from the Current Population Survey and administrative data from New York to simulate the poverty impact of the recent federal and state welfare reforms. The authors found that the federal welfare reforms would, in the absence of additional state or local aid, raise the poverty rate of families with children and the poverty gap (the amount needed to raise poor families’ incomes up to the poverty line). Although New York state and local welfare programs will offset much of this impact, it was found that even with state and local aid, 16,000 families with children will move into poverty and 63,000 families with children, most of them already poor, will move into severe poverty, while the aggregate poverty gap will increase by nearly 25 percent.
An analysis of Latino poverty and a plan of action.
De La Rosa, M. R. (2000). Journal of Poverty, 4(1/2), 27-62.
This paper provides a broad overview of the current poverty status of Latinos in the United States . Data from the 1996 U.S. Census indicates that poverty affects Latinos disproportionately and that Latinos’ low educational attainment and poor occupational status participation have a great impact on the current poverty conditions of Latinos. Also discussed are the effects of poverty on the well-being of Latinos. The findings from the U.S. Census and several major health surveys suggest that there is a relationship between poverty and Latino current health and educational status. Recommendations are made by the author to alleviate the conditions of poverty faced by Latinos. (This is one of seven articles in this special issue on Latino poverty in the new century.)
Financial barriers to health care for Latinos: Poverty and beyond.
Cornelius, L. J. (2000). Journal of Poverty, 4(1/2), 63-83.
This study uses data from the 1994 Commonwealth Fund Minority Health Survey to examine the financing of medical care for working age (18-64) Latinos. Nearly one out of every three working age Latinos (32 percent) were uninsured in 1994. Poor Latinos were more than three times more likely than upper income Latinos (49.9 percent versus 13.8 percent) to lack health insurance in 1994. Uninsured Latinos were less likely than those with public or private insurance to see a physician in 1994 (62.7 percent versus 88.9 percent and 89.3 percent, respectively). Multivariate analyses showed that both financial (income, employment status, amount of insurance premiums) and non-financial factors (type of usual source of medical care, citizenship) played a role in a decision to see a physician in 1994. Options are discussed for expanding coverage to the uninsured. (This is one of seven articles in this special issue on Latino poverty in the new century.)
Structural model of the effects of poverty on externalizing behaviors of four-to five-year-old children .
Eamon, M. K. (2000, September). Social Work Research, 24(3), 143-154.
Mother-child data of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth were used to identify the parenting practices that mediate relations between persistent, recent, and transitional poverty and the externalizing and internalizing behaviors of children 4 to 5 years old. Persistent poverty is associated with a lower-quality physical home environment, which is linked to children’s internalizing behaviors. Lower-quality physical environment, maternal emotional unresponsiveness, and fewer stimulating experiences contribute significantly to the effect of recent poverty on internalizing behaviors. Lower-quality physical environment and fewer stimulating experiences mediate the relation between recent poverty and externalizing behaviors. Contrary to hypothesized relations, transitional poverty predicts fewer externalizing and internalizing behaviors.
Work after welfare: Women’s work effort, occupation, and economic well-being.
Cancian, M. & Meyer, D. R. (2000, June). Social Work Research, 24(2), 69-86.
Current welfare reforms attempt to move low-income women with children from reliance on welfare to work. The logic of some current efforts relies on the thesis that employment, even in low-paying jobs, leads eventually to self-sufficiency. With data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, the authors analyzed the relationship between work history and economic success during the first five years after women leave welfare. They found that over time median wages and hours worked increased and that earnings generally improved. Nonetheless, even in the fifth year, only one in four consistently worked full-time. Although current welfare reforms are focused on moving women into jobs quickly, results cited in this article suggest that employment itself is not a guarantee of economic success.
Maternal self-efficacy and children’s influence on stress and parenting among single black mothers in poverty.
Jackson, A. P. (2000, January). Journal of Family Issues, 21(1), 3-16.
This study explores the relations among perceived self-efficacy, social support, children’s behaviors, and maternal parenting in a sample of 188 single black mothers of a preschool-age child, employed and unemployed, who also were current and former welfare recipients in New York City . Using multiple regression techniques, a positive relationship was found between child behavior problems and parenting stress; being unemployed and having lower self-efficacy and less social support from friends were marginally significant predictors. Fewer child behavior problems and higher maternal educational attainment were significant predictors of more supportive, involved parenting. A marginally significant positive interaction between self-efficacy and child behavior problems indicated that self-efficacy buffered the effect of behavior problems on maternal parenting behavior.
Life on welfare: Who is getting cash assistance now?
Born, C. E., Caudill, P. J. & Cordero, M. L. (1999, June). Policy and Practice (formerly Public Welfare ), 57(2), 28-34.
The second anniversary of the enactment of welfare reform legislation recently passed with little fanfare. Now that the first large wave of families has left welfare, who are the families currently receiving cash assistance? What are their characteristics and what obstacles or challenges do they and local welfare agencies face in the new, time-limited, work-focused world of public welfare? This article attempts to shed a glimmer of light on these issues by presenting findings from a study conducted in one Maryland county of the entire on-welfare caseload (n = 358) 18 months after implementing (nonwaiver based) welfare reform in Maryland. The study uses both qualitative and quantitative data to address the two questions noted above.
Delinquency prevention in poor and at-risk African-American youth: A social work practice innovation.
Forster, M. & Rehner, T. (1999). Social Thought, 19(2), 37-52.
Juvenile delinquency is a major social issue today which threatens to become more acute with anticipated demographic shifts and reductions in public support for the poor. Effective strategies for the prevention and reduction of delinquency among poor and at-risk youth are much needed. The Family Network Partnership is a small community-based delinquency prevention program in Hattiesburg , Mississippi . The program joins the city housing authority, the community policing team, the youth cohort, and the local state university in efforts to address delinquency in a local public housing project. The program uses three primary strategies: (1) intervention with youth already involved with the juvenile justice system; (2) skill-building among youth prior to court involvement; and (3) community capacity building. This paper describes the Partnership’s background, principles and program, and outcomes to date. With qualification, the Partnership is offered as a model for replication in similar communities. (This is one of six articles in this special issue on raising children out of poverty.)
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Social Work Research In The News – Poverty
“Pantries provide backup for some military families”
USATODAY.COM, December 22, 2004
By Tom Vanden
Mark Rank, professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis , says the increase in food stamp use mirrors poverty. There were 1.3 million more Americans living in poverty in 2003 than 2002, according to Census statistics.
“The economy slowed down during this time, and unemployment rose,” Rank says. “Food stamp use rose with the poverty rate.”
“The changing face of poverty-Millions of Americans live in poverty, more families are suffering and hunger is seen growing.”
CNN/Money, December 30, 2004
By Octavio Blanco
New York (CNN/Money)- Poverty and hunger are problems that many Americans relegate to the Third World . But the steady growth of poverty has left millions of American families afraid they won’t have enough money to put food on the table.
“One billion children suffer from poverty, war, AIDS:UNICEF”
Yahoo News, December 9, 2004
LONDON (AFP) – More than one billion children, half of the world’s population of children, suffer from poverty, violent conflict and the scourge of AIDS, the United Nations Children’s Fund said in its annual report.
Informing the Welfare Debate: Perspectives on the Transformation of Social Policy
The Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) began this project in 1995 in the hope that an academic entity such as IRP might contribute broader analysis and historical perspective to a welfare debate sometimes characterized by opinion and partisan positioning. The goals of the project were to produce objective, credible, and readable documents summarizing current knowledge in critical areas of the welfare reform debate; to disseminate these documents widely among policymakers engaged in welfare reform efforts at the federal, state, and local levels; and, as feasible, to conduct workshops and conferences.
IRP discussion papers, reprints, and special reports
Dynamics of Material Hardship in the Women's Employment Study
Colleen M. Heflin
This paper asks: Within a welfare sample, how common are experiences of material hardship over time? Are some forms of material hardship more common than others? Do women experience multiple hardships? The author analyzes data from the Women's Employment Study on different forms of material hardship (food insufficiency, telephone disconnection, utility disconnection, unmet medical needs, improper winter clothing, and housing problems). The level of women ever reporting each form of hardship was substantially higher than in other studies, and women were likely to experience multiple forms of hardship over the observation period. (DP 1315-06)
Examining the Effect of the Earned Income Tax Credit on the Labor Market Participation of Families on Welfare
V. Joseph Hotz, Charles H. Mullin, and John Karl Scholz
This paper uses a unique dataset, created by matching administrative data from public assistance records, unemployment insurance records, and federal tax returns for a sample of California residents, to study the employment effects of the earned income tax credit (EITC). At the core of our empirical analysis is a set of four tests that we use to assess the causal effects of the EITC on employment. (DP 1313-05)
Report on a Meta-Analysis of Welfare-to-Work Programs
David Greenberg, Andreas Cebulla, and Stacey Bouchet
This report uses meta-analysis, a set of statistically based techniques for combining quantitative findings from different studies, to synthesize estimates of program effects from random assignment evaluations of welfare-to-work programs and to explore the factors that best explain differences in the programs' performance. All the programs included in the analysis targeted recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC; now called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, TANF). (DP 1312-05)
Welfare-Induced Migration at State Borders: New Evidence from Micro-Data
This paper extends and synthesizes the various approaches used in the recent welfare migration literature to offer the most comprehensive set of tests to date for welfare migration. The results are largely consistent with the presence of welfare migration effects and the substantial importance of short-distance moves in welfare-induced migration flows. (DP 1306-05)
Transitions in Welfare Participation and Female Headship
J. Fitzgerald and D. Ribar
This study uses data from the 1990, 1992, 1993, and 1996 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation to examine how welfare policies and local economic conditions contribute to women's transitions into and out of female headship and into and out of welfare participation. It also examines whether welfare participation is directly associated with longer spells of headship. (DP 1275-03)
State Fiscal Responses to Welfare Reform during Recessions: Lessons for the Future
Howard Chernick and Andrew Reschovsky
This paper addresses two questions. First, in periods of recession or slow economic growth, will state governments be able to meet the needs of their low-income residents for public assistance? A slowing economy not only reduces state tax revenue but also increases the need for fiscal assistance for low-income state residents. Second, will states be willing to devote adequate resources to "safety net" programs? In periods of fiscal stress, will state governments choose instead to satisfy other claims on state resources? (DP 1270-03)
The Role of Non-Financial Factors in Exit and Entry in the TANF Program
This paper focuses on the role of non-financial factors in exit and entry in the post-1996 TANF program, using data from a study of welfare and nonwelfare families in Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio in the period 19992001. Both descriptive evidence and evidence from an econometric model suggest that work and other requirements, sanctions, and diversion played a large role in exit and entry over the period. (DP 1265-03)
Milton Friedman, the Negative Income Tax, and the Evolution of U.S. Welfare Policy
Robert A. Moffitt
The negative income tax represents one of the fundamental ideas of modern welfare policy, offering a powerful lesson for work incentives in welfare programs. Actual welfare policy developments in the United States have exhibited strong trends both consistent and inconsistent with the negative income tax ideal. On the one hand, the Earned Income Tax Credit has produced a negative income tax-like program; on the other hand, the rise of a work requirement philosophy and the increasing categorization of the population into different, multiple programs represent the antithesis of the negative income tax. (DP 1260-03)
Welfare Reform and New York City's Low-Income Population
H. Chernick and C. Reimers
To evaluate the initial effects of welfare reform and changes in New York City policies and administrative procedures, we use the Current Population Survey (CPS) to compare receipt of public benefit programs, earnings, and income among vulnerable households, defined as those households with low education or single mothers in 1994-95 and 1997-99. (DP 1256-02)
The Impact of South Carolina's Family Independence Program on Movers, Stayers, and Those in Between
M. Edelhoch, Q. Liu, L. Martin, and M. Wiseman
The consequences of introduction of South Carolina's TANF program for closure and for outcomes for leavers are related to the authors' measure of expected case duration. Among all leavers, those who could have been expected to leave welfare fastest appear on average to be most vulnerable to incidents of food deprivation. The authors conclude that the proposed distinction of recipients as long-term, short-term, or cyclers is difficult to apply in practice. (DP 1250-02)
Before and After TANF: The Economic Well-Being of Women leaving Welfare
M. Cancian, R. Haveman, D. Meyer, and B. Wolfe
Compares the postexit earnings, employment, and incomes of recent leavers with those who left welfare two years earlier, and also compares a measure of postexit income to each woman's measured income in the quarter before welfare exit. (DP 1244-02)
How Will Welfare Reform Affect Childbearing and Family Structure Decisions?
H. Peters, R. Plotnick, and S.-O. Jeong
The paper summarizes changes in key elements of welfare policy and changes in closely related policies on child support enforcement and family planning programs, concluding that reform has modestly shifted welfare incentives in directions desired by policymakers. (DP 1239-01)
Job Performance and Retention among Welfare Recipients
H. Holzer, M. Stoll, and D. Wissoker
Data from a recent survey of employers indicate that most welfare recipients perform as well as or better than employees in comparable jobs, and that their turnover rates appear fairly low. Absenteeism is pervasive and is often linked to child care and transportation problems. Poor attitudes toward work and poor relations with coworkers are fairly frequently observed and are strongly related to job performance and retention difficulties. (DP 1237-01)
Welfare Reform and Household Saving
E. Hurst and J. Ziliak
In order to receive many forms of government assistance, a household's assets must be below the federal or state mandated limits. In this paper, we use micro-level data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to examine the impact of new saving incentives that were implemented as part of the overhaul of U.S. welfare policy during the mid-1990s on the saving of households at risk of entering welfare. (DP 1234-01)
Explaining Variation in the Effects of Welfare-to-Work Programs
M. Greenberg, R. Meyer, C. Michalopoulos, and M. Wiseman
The authors question the legitimacy of combining the results from multiple sites when evaluating government-funded employment and training programs. (DP 1225-01)
Britain's New Deal and the Next Round of U.S. Welfare Reform
R. Walker and M. Wiseman
This paper reviews the ideology, strategy, and implementation of British welfare innovations with regard to links to US reforms and as a source of new perspectives and ideas for the upcoming debate on TANF reauthorization. (DP 1223-01)
Welfare Benefits and Female Headship in U.S. Time Series
This paper reexamines time-series evidence with particular attention to the role of wages in explaining trends in headship and notes that the correct specification includes male as well as female wages. When both are controlled, welfare benefits have a slight positive impact on female headship even in time series. The results demonstrate the importance of labor market factors in explaining trends in female headship. (DP 1219-01)
Welfare Reform and Food Stamp Caseload Dynamics
J. P. Ziliak, C. Gundersen, and D. N. Figlio
The results of this study suggest that the estimated aggregate effect of welfare reform on the recent decline in food stamp caseloads is modest; the decline has been influenced substantially by the robust economy, however. (DP 1215-00)
This paper reports estimates of the number and cost implications of infants conceived by mothers on welfare in California and the effects of family cap policies on such births. (DP 1212-00)
Incentives, Challenges, and Dilemmas of TANF
An analysis of the old and new welfare programs in four states highlights the difficulty of simultaneously providing incentives to work and avoiding high marginal rates of taxation. (DP 1209-00)
Experienced-Based Measures of Heterogeneity in the Welfare Caseload
RPT 835 (Studies of Welfare Populations: Data Collection and Research Issues, ed. Michele Ver Ploeg, Robert A. Moffitt, and Constance F. Citro [National Academy Press, 2002], pp. 473-499).
The approach taken in this chapter examines heterogeneity as measured by the recipient's own welfare experience ("experienced-based" measures of heterogeneity). The analysis shows that the single most consistent predictor of labor market potential is the total amount of time a woman has been on welfare.
Preexit Benefit Receipt and Employment Histories and Postexit Outcomes of Welfare Leavers
M. Ver Ploeg
RPT 834 (Studies of Welfare Populations: Data Collection and Research Issues, ed. Michele Ver Ploeg, Robert A. Moffitt, and Constance F. Citro [National Academy Press, 2002], pp. 415-472).
In examining the outcomes of welfare leavers, it is important to characterize the caseload by their past work experience and by their past benefit receipt history because outcomes vary widely across different work experience and benefit receipt backgrounds.
Ten Years Later: Economic Well-Being Among Those Who Left Welfare
D. Meyer and M. Cancian
RPT 832 (Journal of Applied Social Sciences 25, no. 1 [Fall/Winter 2000/2001], pp. 1330).
Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth from 1979 through 1996, the article describes the economic well-being of young single mothers who exited welfare over the ten years thereafter. Some women achieve moderate levels of economic success, but a substantial number of these women and their families remain economically vulnerable.
How Teen Mothers Are Faring under Welfare Reform
A. Kalil and S.K. Danziger
RPT 826 (Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 56, no. 4 , pp. 775-798).
We examine socioeconomic and psychological well-being among 88 low-income minor mothers. Half of the young mothers receive cash welfare assistance and face new policy mandates regarding coresidence status and school attendance. Although most appear to be "complying" with the requirements of the new welfare rules and are satisfied with their current living arrangements, many are faring poorly on dimensions of psychological well-being and life stress. Receipt of cash welfare is not a significant correlate of school success, parenting stress, or economic strain.
How Welfare Reform Is Affecting Women's Work
M. Corcoran, S. K. Danziger, A. Kalil, and K. Seefeldt
RPT 822 (Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 26 , pp. 241-269).
The new welfare system mandates participation in work activity. The authors review the evolution of the 1996 legislation and how states implement welfare reform, examining evidence on recipients' employment, well-being, and future earnings potential to assess the role of welfare in women's work.
Welfare to Work in the U.S.: A Model for Other Developed Nations?
R. Haveman and B. Wolfe
RPT 812 (International Tax and Public Finance, Vol. 7, no. 1 (February 2000), pp. 95-114).
The authors describe the problems inherent in U.S. social welfare policy prior to TANF (emphasizing its serious labor supply disincentives), catalogue the wide variety of economic changes implicit in TANF, and describe the policies undertaken by the state of Wisconsin, a leader in implementing the new federal policy.
Work After Welfare: Women's Work Effort, Occupation, and Economic Well-Being
M.Cancian and D. Meyer
RPT 806 (Social Work Research, Vol. 24, no.2 [June 2000], pp. 69-86).
Current welfare reforms attempt to move low-income women with children from welfare to work. With data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, the authors analyzed the relationship between work history and economic success during the first five years after women leave welfare.
State Fiscal Responses to Block Grants: Will the Social Safety Net Survive?
H. Chernick and A. Reschovsky
RPT 804 (The End of Welfare? Consequences of Federal Devolution for the Nation, ed. Max B. Sawicky [M. E. Sharpe, Inc., 2000], pp. 157-193).
The federal government has made radical changes in the system of intergovernmental finance in the United States. The primary federal responsibility is now to provide block grants to the states, with the states bearing the full cost of spending above the level of the block grants. This chapter summarizes what we know about how state governments are likely to respond to this new fiscal environment.
Explaining Welfare Reform: Public Choice and the Labor Market
RPT 802 (International Tax and Public Finance, Vol. 6 , pp. 289-315).
This paper seeks to identify factors which could plausibly have led to the contractionary welfare reform initiatives begun at the state and federal levels in the U.S. in the 1990s, initiatives concentrated on the AFDC program.