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The SSRC Library allows visitors to access materials related to self-sufficiency programs, practice and research. Visitors can view common search terms, conduct a keyword search or create a custom search using any combination of the filters at the left side of this page. To conduct a keyword search, type a term or combination of terms into the search box below, select whether you want to search the exact phrase or the words in any order, and click on the blue button to the right of the search box to view relevant results.

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  • Individual Author: DeParle, Jason
    Reference Type: Book Chapter/Book
    Year: 2004

    In this definitive work, two-time Pulitzer finalist Jason DeParle cuts between the mean streets of Milwaukee and the corridors of Washington to produce a masterpiece of literary journalism. At the heart of the story are three cousins whose different lives follow similar trajectories. Leaving welfare, Angie puts her heart in her work. Jewell bets on an imprisoned man. Opal guards a tragic secret that threatens her kids and her life. DeParle traces  their family history back six generations to slavery and weaves poor people, politicians, reformers, and rogues into a spellbinding epic.

    With a vivid sense of humanity, DeParle demonstrates that although we live in a country where anyone can make it, generation after generation some families don’t. To read American Dream is to understand why. (author abstract)

    In this definitive work, two-time Pulitzer finalist Jason DeParle cuts between the mean streets of Milwaukee and the corridors of Washington to produce a masterpiece of literary journalism. At the heart of the story are three cousins whose different lives follow similar trajectories. Leaving welfare, Angie puts her heart in her work. Jewell bets on an imprisoned man. Opal guards a tragic secret that threatens her kids and her life. DeParle traces  their family history back six generations to slavery and weaves poor people, politicians, reformers, and rogues into a spellbinding epic.

    With a vivid sense of humanity, DeParle demonstrates that although we live in a country where anyone can make it, generation after generation some families don’t. To read American Dream is to understand why. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Mead, Lawrence
    Reference Type: Book Chapter/Book
    Year: 2005

    "Good government" is commonly seen either as a formidable challenge, a distant dream, or an oxymoron, and yet it is the reason why Wisconsin led America toward welfare reform. In this book, Lawrence Mead shows in depth what the Badger State did and--just as important--how it was done. Wisconsin's welfare reform was the most radical in the country, and it began far earlier than that in most other states. It was the achievement of legislators and administrators who were unusually high-minded and effective by national standards. Their decade-long struggle to overhaul welfare is a gripping story that inspires hope for better solutions to poverty nationwide.

    Mead shows that Wisconsin succeeded--not just because it did the right things, but because its government was unusually masterful. Politicians collaborated across partisan lines, and administrators showed initiative and creativity in revamping welfare. Although Wisconsin erred at some points, it achieved promising policies, which then had good outcomes in terms of higher employment and reduced dependency. Mead also shows...

    "Good government" is commonly seen either as a formidable challenge, a distant dream, or an oxymoron, and yet it is the reason why Wisconsin led America toward welfare reform. In this book, Lawrence Mead shows in depth what the Badger State did and--just as important--how it was done. Wisconsin's welfare reform was the most radical in the country, and it began far earlier than that in most other states. It was the achievement of legislators and administrators who were unusually high-minded and effective by national standards. Their decade-long struggle to overhaul welfare is a gripping story that inspires hope for better solutions to poverty nationwide.

    Mead shows that Wisconsin succeeded--not just because it did the right things, but because its government was unusually masterful. Politicians collaborated across partisan lines, and administrators showed initiative and creativity in revamping welfare. Although Wisconsin erred at some points, it achieved promising policies, which then had good outcomes in terms of higher employment and reduced dependency. Mead also shows that these lessons hold nationally. It is states with strong good-government traditions, such as Wisconsin, that typically have implemented welfare reform best. Thus, solutions to poverty must finally look past policies and programs to the capacities of government itself. Although governmental quality is uneven across the states, it is also improving, and that bodes well for better antipoverty policies in the future. (publisher abstract)

  • Individual Author: Duncan, Greg; Huston, Aletha; Weisner, Thomas
    Reference Type: Book Chapter/Book
    Year: 2007

    During the 1990s, growing demands to end chronic welfare dependency culminated in the 1996 federal “welfare-to-work” reforms. But regardless of welfare reform, the United States has always been home to a large population of working poor—people who remain poor even when they work and do not receive welfare. In a concentrated effort to address the problems of the working poor, a coalition of community activists and business leaders in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, launched New Hope, an experimental program that boosted employment among the city’s poor while reducing poverty and improving children’s lives. In Higher Ground, Greg Duncan, Aletha Huston, and Thomas Weisner provide a compelling look at how New Hope can serve as a model for national anti-poverty policies.

    New Hope was a social contract—not a welfare program—in which participants were required to work a minimum of 30 hours a week in order to be eligible for earnings supplements and health and child care subsidies. All participants had access to career counseling and temporary community service jobs. Drawing on...

    During the 1990s, growing demands to end chronic welfare dependency culminated in the 1996 federal “welfare-to-work” reforms. But regardless of welfare reform, the United States has always been home to a large population of working poor—people who remain poor even when they work and do not receive welfare. In a concentrated effort to address the problems of the working poor, a coalition of community activists and business leaders in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, launched New Hope, an experimental program that boosted employment among the city’s poor while reducing poverty and improving children’s lives. In Higher Ground, Greg Duncan, Aletha Huston, and Thomas Weisner provide a compelling look at how New Hope can serve as a model for national anti-poverty policies.

    New Hope was a social contract—not a welfare program—in which participants were required to work a minimum of 30 hours a week in order to be eligible for earnings supplements and health and child care subsidies. All participants had access to career counseling and temporary community service jobs. Drawing on evidence from surveys, public records of employment and earnings, in-depth interviews, and ethnographic observation, Higher Ground tells the story of this ambitious three-year social experiment and evaluates how participants fared relative to a control group. The results were highly encouraging. Poverty rates declined among families that participated in the program. Employment and earnings increased among participants who were not initially working full-time, relative to their counterparts in a control group. For those who had faced just one significant barrier to employment (such as a lack of access to child care or a spotty employment history), these gains lasted years after the program ended. Increased income, combined with New Hope’s subsidies for child care and health care, brought marked improvements to the well-being and development of participants’ children. Enrollment in child care centers increased, and fewer medical needs went unmet. Children performed better in school and exhibited fewer behavioral problems, and gains were particularly dramatic for boys, who are at the greatest risk for poor academic performance and behavioral disorders.

    As America takes stock of the successes and shortcomings of the Clinton-era welfare reforms, the authors convincingly demonstrate why New Hope could be a model for state and national policies to assist the working poor. Evidence based and insightfully written, Higher Ground illuminates how policymakers can make work pay for families struggling to escape poverty. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Yoshikawa, Hirokazu; Weisner, Thomas S.; Lowe, Edward D.
    Reference Type: Book Chapter/Book
    Year: 2009

    Low-skilled women in the 1990s took widely different paths in trying to support their children. Some held good jobs with growth potential, some cycled in and out of low-paying jobs, some worked part time, and others stayed out of the labor force entirely. Scholars have closely analyzed the economic consequences of these varied trajectories, but little research has focused on the consequences of a mother’s career path on her children’s development. Making It Work, edited by Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Thomas Weisner, and Edward Lowe, looks past the economic statistics to illustrate how different employment trajectories affect the social and emotional lives of poor women and their children.

    Making It Work examines Milwaukee’s New Hope program, an experiment testing the effectiveness of an anti-poverty initiative that provided health and child care subsidies, wage supplements, and other services to full-time low-wage workers. Employing parent surveys, teacher reports, child assessment measures, ethnographic studies, and state administrative records, Making It Work provides a...

    Low-skilled women in the 1990s took widely different paths in trying to support their children. Some held good jobs with growth potential, some cycled in and out of low-paying jobs, some worked part time, and others stayed out of the labor force entirely. Scholars have closely analyzed the economic consequences of these varied trajectories, but little research has focused on the consequences of a mother’s career path on her children’s development. Making It Work, edited by Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Thomas Weisner, and Edward Lowe, looks past the economic statistics to illustrate how different employment trajectories affect the social and emotional lives of poor women and their children.

    Making It Work examines Milwaukee’s New Hope program, an experiment testing the effectiveness of an anti-poverty initiative that provided health and child care subsidies, wage supplements, and other services to full-time low-wage workers. Employing parent surveys, teacher reports, child assessment measures, ethnographic studies, and state administrative records, Making It Work provides a detailed picture of how a mother’s work trajectory affects her, her family, and her children’s school performance, social behavior, and expectations for the future. Rashmita Mistry and Edward D. Lowe find that increases in a mother’s income were linked to higher school performance in her children. Without large financial worries, mothers gained extra confidence in their ability to parent, which translated into better test scores and higher teacher appraisals for their children. JoAnn Hsueh finds that the children of women with erratic work schedules and non-standard hours—conditions endemic to the low-skilled labor market—exhibited higher levels of anxiety and depression. Conversely, Noemi Enchautegui-de-Jesus, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, and Vonnie McLoyd discover that better job quality predicted lower levels of acting-out and withdrawal among children. Perhaps most surprisingly, Anna Gassman-Pines, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, and Sandra Nay note that as wages for these workers rose, so did their marriage rates, suggesting that those worried about family values should also be concerned with alleviating poverty in America.

    It is too simplistic to say that parental work is either “good” or “bad” for children. Making It Work gives a nuanced view of how job quality, flexibility, and wages are of the utmost importance for the well-being of low-income parents and children. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Reese, Ellen
    Reference Type: Book Chapter/Book
    Year: 2011

    In 1996, President Bill Clinton hailed the “end of welfare as we know it” when he signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act. The law effectively transformed the nation’s welfare system from an entitlement to a work-based one, instituting new time limits on welfare payments and restrictions on public assistance for legal immigrants. In They Say Cutback, We Say Fight Back, Ellen Reese offers a timely review of welfare reform and its controversial design, now sorely tested in the aftermath of the Great Recession. The book also chronicles the largely untold story of a new grassroots coalition that opposed the law and continues to challenge and reshape its legacy.

    While most accounts of welfare policy highlight themes of race, class and gender, They Say Cutback examines how welfare recipients and their allies contested welfare reform from the bottom-up. Using in-depth case studies of campaigns in Wisconsin and California, Reese argues that a crucial phase in policymaking unfolded after the bill’s passage. As counties and states set out to redesign their...

    In 1996, President Bill Clinton hailed the “end of welfare as we know it” when he signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act. The law effectively transformed the nation’s welfare system from an entitlement to a work-based one, instituting new time limits on welfare payments and restrictions on public assistance for legal immigrants. In They Say Cutback, We Say Fight Back, Ellen Reese offers a timely review of welfare reform and its controversial design, now sorely tested in the aftermath of the Great Recession. The book also chronicles the largely untold story of a new grassroots coalition that opposed the law and continues to challenge and reshape its legacy.

    While most accounts of welfare policy highlight themes of race, class and gender, They Say Cutback examines how welfare recipients and their allies contested welfare reform from the bottom-up. Using in-depth case studies of campaigns in Wisconsin and California, Reese argues that a crucial phase in policymaking unfolded after the bill’s passage. As counties and states set out to redesign their welfare programs, activists scored significant victories by lobbying officials at different levels of American government through media outreach, protests and organizing. Such efforts tended to enjoy more success when based on broad coalitions that cut across race and class, drawing together a shifting alliance of immigrants, public sector unions, feminists, and the poor. The book tracks the tensions and strategies of this unwieldy group brought together inadvertently by their opposition to four major aspects of welfare reform: immigrants’ benefits, welfare-to-work policies, privatization of welfare agencies, and child care services. Success in scoring reversals was uneven and subject to local demographic, political and institutional factors. In California, for example, workfare policies created a large and concentrated pool of new workers that public sector unions could organize in campaigns to change policies. In Wisconsin, by contrast, such workers were scattered and largely placed in private sector jobs, leaving unions at a disadvantage. Large Latino and Asian immigrant populations in California successfully lobbied to restore access to public assistance programs, while mobilization in Wisconsin remained more limited. On the other hand, the unionization of child care providers succeeded in Wisconsin – but failed in California – because of contrasting gubernatorial politics. With vivid descriptions of the new players and alliances in each of these campaigns, Reese paints a nuanced and complex portrait of the modern American welfare state.

    At a time when more than 40 million Americans live in poverty, They Say Cutback offers a sobering assessment of the nation’s safety net. As policymakers confront budget deficits and a new era of austerity, this book provides an authoritative guide for both scholars and activists looking for lessons to direct future efforts to change welfare policy. (author abstract)