Public Assistance and the Criminalization of Poverty
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Cover, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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This project was nurtured through the supervision and support of Kristin Luker, Lauren Edelman, and Jane Mauldon. Kristin’s encouragement, not to mention her monthly meetings over coffee and cookies early on in this project, allowed me to pursue this study even when I was unsure where it would lead. Her comments on drafts were invaluable. In the early stages of this...
List of Abbreviations
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Mention the word welfare in a room full of people in the United States and you can expect to see brows furrow and mouths tighten in disgust. Welfare, the colloquial term for some public benefits in the United States, no longer holds its original meaning: well-being. Instead, it has become a pejorative term used to label “welfare mothers” or “welfare queens.” And while welfare...
2 Reconstructing Social Ills: From the Perils of Poverty to Welfare Dependency
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Assistance to the poor has never been provided without strings attached. Aid to the poor, particularly government-sponsored aid to the poor, has been designed to regulate—markets and the economy, families, morality, even motherhood. That is not to say that providing for the poor has been divorced from a public desire...
3 The Criminalization of Poverty
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The 1996 welfare reforms were designed, so then-president Bill Clinton said, to “make work pay.” Work, however, was only one of the many areas of life regulated by the welfare reform measure. As a result of the reforms, the federal government and the states instituted a host of policies and practices that equated welfare receipt with criminality; policed the everyday lives of poor families; and wove the criminal justice system into the welfare system, often...
4 A Glimpse at the Interviewees
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The following chapters draw upon in-depth, semistructured interviews with thirty-four welfare recipients in a Northern California county called (for this study) Bayview. Bayview County has a population of just over one million people. The county includes a bustling downtown, Bayview City. More affluent residents live in Bayview Hills, while those who...
5 Living within and without the Rules
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The welfare recipient interviewees led their economic and family lives wandering a maze of welfare rules and regulations. They also lived within a maze of family needs—both economic and otherwise. Sometimes the interviewees lived within the rules, both specific and abstract, of welfare. At other times, however, they lived without the rules—sometimes because they did...
6 Engaging with Rules and Negotiating Compliance
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If the interviewees in this study are at all indicative of general trends among welfare recipients, then breaking the welfare rules is the norm. Other studies have found that welfare recipients are often inadequately informed of welfare rules and programs and possess only superficial knowledge of sanctions (Fragile Families Research Brief 2002; Meyers, Glaser, and MacDonald 1998; Hasenfeld, Ghose...
7 Contextualizing Criminality, Noncompliance, and Resistance
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Welfare reformers of the 1990s hoped to create a new welfare system that would appeal to individuals’ economic self-interest, a system that would spur the poor to leave the welfare system and assume the risks of the labor market. The simplistic model of welfare reform excluded a number of important factors. First, the economic needs of welfare recipients exceeded either...
8 Cheating Ourselves
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Four decades ago, Lon Fuller wrote a book titled The Morality of Law that articulated a set of principles he considered essential to law’s inner morality. Fuller wrote that for legality to exist—in other words, for both the legal system and legal rules to be considered legitimate—law must meet certain indispensable requirements. Fuller’s work (1969, 39) describes eight failings that may undermine...
Appendix A: Critical Methodology
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Appendix B: Interview Schedule
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About the Author
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Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2011