Cheating Welfare: Public Assistance and the Criminalization of Poverty

Cheating Welfare: Public Assistance and the Criminalization of Poverty

by Kaaryn S. Gustafson
     
 

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Over the last three decades, welfare policies have been informed by popular beliefs that welfare fraud is rampant. As a result, welfare policies have become more punitive and the boundaries between the welfare system and the criminal justice system have blurred—so much so that in some locales prosecution caseloads for welfare fraud exceed welfare caseloads.

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Overview

Over the last three decades, welfare policies have been informed by popular beliefs that welfare fraud is rampant. As a result, welfare policies have become more punitive and the boundaries between the welfare system and the criminal justice system have blurred—so much so that in some locales prosecution caseloads for welfare fraud exceed welfare caseloads. In reality, some recipients manipulate the welfare system for their own ends, others are gravely hurt by punitive policies, and still others fall somewhere in between.

In Cheating Welfare, Kaaryn S. Gustafson endeavors to clear up these gray areas by providing insights into the history, social construction, and lived experience of welfare. She shows why cheating is all but inevitable—not because poor people are immoral, but because ordinary individuals navigating complex systems of rules are likely to become entangled despite their best efforts. Through an examination of the construction of the crime we know as welfare fraud, which she bases on in-depth interviews with welfare recipients in Northern California, Gustafson challenges readers to question their assumptions about welfare policies, welfare recipients, and crime control in the United States.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
I am drunk on the virtues of Cheating Welfare, and think that all serious law and society scholars should read it. Even to one who is steeped in the historical and contemporary record of poor people’s treatment by the government of the United States, Gustafson’s work is surprising and very instructive.-Felicia Kornbluh,Law and Society Review

The book is a readable account of welfare mothers (and a few fathers), emphasizing how these people understand and often violate the rules they are supposed to follow. It would be useful in a course on welfare or perhaps as supplementary reading in a course on poverty.-C. Emory Burton,Contemporary Sociology

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780814732915
Publisher:
New York University Press
Publication date:
07/25/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
238
File size:
2 MB

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

“A fascinating account of the welfare system seen from the perspective of welfare recipients.”-Austin Sarat,William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College

"Cheating Welfare is simultaneously compassionate and scholarly. Gustafson provides a rare insider perspective on how citizens understand and use welfare. The stories that she relates are a testament to the resilience and strength of people caring for others as best they can in the face of great adversity. Her discussion of necessary, sometimes inadvertent, non-compliance as a form of resistance brings a more complex understanding to theories of rule abidance. This compelling book is a must-read for students, policymakers, and scholars who wish to have informed opinions based on how policies actually shape the behavior of and outcomes for low-income citizens in the context of their complex lived reality.”-Corey Shdaimah,author of Negotiating Justice

“Gustafson's book is a devastating expose on welfare reform's criminalization of poverty. It puts into sharp relief how welfare policy today reinforces the cultural biases against the poor while actually working to make the poorest of the poor even poorer. Steeped in deep understanding of the history of welfare policy, Cheating Welfare poignantly relies on first-hand accounts from clients to specify the ways that the current system works to undermine their attempts to achieve self- sufficiency. The contemporary integration of welfare policy and criminal law is put under a brilliant light for all to see. This is a most timely and critical book that should be read widely.”-Sanford Schram,author of Welfare Discipline: Discourse, Governance and Globalization

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Meet the Author

Kaaryn S. Gustafson is Professor of Law at the University of California, Irvine.

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