Virginia E. Schein shatters the stereotype of mothers on welfare. The women she interviewed in cities, towns, and rural areas talked to her about their deep committment to the children they are raising in poverty, about the abuse they have endured, about their eagerness for meaningful work, and about their inventiveness in stretching scarce dollars. In a policy debate increasingly dominated by shrill, punitive voices, Schein argues that the experiences and collective wisdom of these women cannot be ignored.
"An important resource for those who wish to understand the daily struggles of poor women and children, for students of social policy, and particularly for policy makers."—Ruth Sidel, Hunter College, American Journal of Sociology
- Publisher's Weekly
Schein, an organizational psychologist, interviewed 30 poor single mothers in cities, small towns and rural areas about work, parenting and welfare. More than half the women she interviewed are white, which helps create a more inclusive picture of poverty than the stereotypical image of a single black urban mother. Whatever their race or region, the women are hardworking, but most put caring for their children over paid employment, a choice that almost inevitably traps them in low-wage jobs with no opportunities for advancement: waitressing, for example, provides immediate cash and a flexible schedule, whereas higher-paying factory jobs do not allow staying home to care for a sick child. Adult education and job-training programs provide the most hope for their future, as well as the most immediate satisfaction. Schein's interviews are brief by ethnographic standards (60 to 90 minutes), and her knowledge of her subjects' life experiences is somewhat superficial, but Working from the Margins nevertheless helps flesh out the evidence of recent quantitative studies showing that full-time employment alone is not enough to lift single mothers out of poverty. (June)
The stereotyped "welfare queen" is far different from the poor women interviewed by psychologist Schein (management, Gettysburg College). The women, from cities, towns, and rural areas, talked to Schein about trying to raise their children right despite poverty, about the abuse most have endured, about their eagerness for meaningful work, and about how inventive they've had to be to stretch scarce dollars. Schein argues that our efforts to keep the poor at a distance through stereotypes and scapegoating are blinding America to workable solutions to poverty among single mothers. The biggest problem, she finds, is how to change society's punitive views about poor women. Paper edition (unseen), $14.95. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)