welfare reform and attitudes toward poverty

Ok, I want to see if my wonderful readers can help me out with a work-related question.  On a draft paper, I wrote the following bullet:

  • Welfare reform removed some of the stigma from poverty.  Welfare reform changed the popular image of a poor person from a long-term welfare recipient to someone who is working hard but having trouble making ends meet.

So, of course I was asked if I could find a statistic or a quote (from someone well-known) to support that statement.

The closest I was able to find via google was this article by Chris Jenks, where he argues that welfare reform made it possible to spend more money on poor people.  I also found this interesting paper from the National Center on Children in Poverty that discusses how people’s willingness to provide help varies based on the characteristics of the poor people.

Any suggestions?  Thanks.

9 Responses to “welfare reform and attitudes toward poverty”

  1. momzom Says:

    try this testimony, p. 6 (approx)http://www.brookings.edu/views/testimony/haskins/20060719.pdf (If the link doesn’t come through, it’s the Brookings Institution website, Testimony of Ron Haskins July 19,2006). It doesn’t exactly say what you say in the bullet, but it does say that the welfare system is now about supporting working families, and at much greater dollar levels than in 1984. To the extent that policy follows public opinion, you could draw the inference you want in the bullet point. Also, I bet Jason DeParle’s big book on 3 women on/off welfare in Milwaukee has some stat like this. Can you get the book? Or search his articles in NY Times database? You can get a 14-day free trial of TimesSelect, which gives you back article access.
    Good luck (from a sometime policy wonk)

  2. RSB Says:

    I’m not sure that welfare reform changed the image of a poor person. It may have improved the image of welfare recipients but being poor in America is still essentially unforgivable and the poor remain as aesthetically deplorable as they ever were. In a society that believes that affluence is, in some way, a reward for virtue, it is hard for me to imagine a legislative solution to negative attitudes towards the poor.

  3. jen Says:

    I wonder if the usage of the term “welfare queen” has dropped? You don’t seem to hear that term bandied about like you used to …

  4. Chris Says:

    Very unscientific, but I did a search in Lexis Nexis for the phrase “welfare queen” in major papers between 1994 and 2000, and again between 2000 and 2006. 504 articles used in in the earlier period, and only 242 in the most recent six year (and a bit) period. I just searched again and got 360 articles from 1988 to 1994, but since you see fewer papers in the mix the farther back you go, I would hesitate to see that period as comparable.

  5. DES Says:

    You might look at Katherine S. Newman’s No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City, for an in-depth examination of how these attitudes arise, and to what extent they are held by poor people themselves. In your bullet you refer to “removing SOME of the stigma from poverty.” Newman’s discussion and examples make it clear why in the land of the almighty individual, where personal choice (even among terrible alternatives) is valorized, it’s at best going to be possible only to lessen the stigma, not entirely remove it.

  6. Alice Says:

    I humbly submit that as a current welfare recipient, I disagree that any stigma has been removed from that program whatsoever. Please see the comments re: the recent TANF rule changes and the ten year anniversary of welfare reform at: http://blogs.usatoday.com/ondeadline/2006/07/a_decade_after_.html
    to see what I mean.

  7. Ursula Says:

    Talk of the Nation on Thursday had a good story on welfare reform on Thursday. I didn’t listen to all of it, but Katherine Boo had some interesting things to say about how there’s now more stigma for being on welfare, as opposed to being poor; there was also discussion of transitional problems such as being too rich for Medicaid, but too poor to go to the doctor. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5664509

  8. kim Says:

    Did you see the article in today’s New York Times?
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/21/washington/21welfare.html?hp&ex=1156132800&en=5ea18d5c91e58cfb&ei=5094&partner=homepage
    The piece discusses after welfare reform, welfare recipients are seen in a more positive light, yet they now face the struggles of being the working poor.

  9. michelle Says:

    Here’s another recent article on poverty that may interest you.
    The Mismeasure of Poverty
    By Nicholas Eberstadt
    http://www.policyreview.org/138/eberstadt.html

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