"i try not to depend on anyone but me": Welfare-reliant women's perspectives on self-sufficiency, work, and marriage

Ellen K. Scott, Andrew S London, Glenda Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Welfare reformers sought to reduce "dependency," or reliance on state-supported cash benefits and deployed a discourse of "self- sufficiency" to promote the legitimacy of efforts to remove welfare recipients from publicly funded cash assistance through either wage labor or marriage. We use longitudinal, qualitative interview data collected from 38 initially welfare-reliant women to examine what self-sufficiency means to them and their perspectives on how work and marriage affect their ability to be self-sufficient. Grounded theory analysis revealed that for these women, self-sufficiency means formal independence from both the state (i.e., Temporary Assistance to Needy Families [TANF]) and men (i.e., marriage). Although they value marriage as an institution and would ideally marry, they do not consider marriage to be a likely route to self-sufficiency given the pool of men available to them. Rather, they embrace their own market-based wage labor as the means by which they can attain some measure of independence. Taking our lead from the women in this study, we challenge the emphasis on marriage in current welfare policy. We argue that employment training that results in better jobs for women and men and work supports that make low-wage work pay are clearly the appropriate direction for policy aimed at the welfare-reliant and working poor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)601-625
Number of pages25
JournalSociological Inquiry
Volume77
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2007

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self-sufficiency
marriage
welfare
wage labor
assistance
cash benefit
welfare recipient
low wage
qualitative interview
grounded theory
social policy
legitimacy
discourse
market
ability
Values

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

Cite this

"i try not to depend on anyone but me" : Welfare-reliant women's perspectives on self-sufficiency, work, and marriage. / Scott, Ellen K.; London, Andrew S; Gross, Glenda.

In: Sociological Inquiry, Vol. 77, No. 4, 11.2007, p. 601-625.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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