Living on the Edge in Suburbia: From Welfare to Workfare

Living on the Edge in Suburbia: From Welfare to Workfare

by Terese Lawinski


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Westchester County, New York, is thought of as suburban and affluent, but welfare reform hit hard here, too. The radical 1996 legislation created a temporary assistance program for poor families with harsher provisions than the program it replaced. It mandates "workfare," meaning that recipients must work as a condition of benefit receipt. But the work parents obtain in the so-called flexible labor market—jobs like home health care aide—are inflexible for them. One sick child can mean the loss of a job.
In contrast to accounts of inner-city poor families, these suburban parents' stories reveal a broad array of precipitating circumstances leading to their downward economic slide and to welfare. They also provide insight into the bureaucratic machinations, rigid rules and mandates, disciplining techniques, and catch-22s that create an insecure environment for many families today. Many of these stories show that the need for welfare over time extends well beyond the federal government's five-year lifetime limit on welfare. Policies emphasizing work first also restrict access to education and further hinder parents' ability to gain a toehold in the economy.
In this tale of people and policies, the author shows how the interests of governments are often at variance with those of vulnerable families, and how some government actions place more pressure on lives replete with stress.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780826517005
Publisher: Vanderbilt University Press
Publication date: 07/09/2010
Pages: 214
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Terese Lawinski is an anthropologist interested in issues related to poverty, women, families, and social equality.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Abbreviations xi

1 Introduction 1

2 Living on the Edge in Suburbia 11

3 From Welfare to Workfare 23

4 The Business of Welfare 35

5 Family Needs versus Welfare Limits 68

6 Insecurity and Inflexibility of "Flexible" Labor 89

7 Work First, Workfare, and Education 126

8 Divergent Interests 150

Epilogue: A New Era-A Global Economic Crisis and the Obama Administration 163

Notes 169

Bibliography 179

Index 189

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