Flat Broke with Children by Sharon Hays
Women in the Age of Welfare Reform

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Hailed as a great success, welfare reform resulted in a dramatic decline in the welfare rolls--from 4.4 million families in 1996 to 2.1 million in 2001. But what does this "success" look like to the welfare mothers and welfare caseworkers who experienced it? In Flat Broke, With Children, Sharon Hays tells us the story of welfare reform from inside the welfare office and inside the lives of welfare mothers, describing the challenges that welfare recipients face in managing their work, their families, and the rules and regulations of welfare reform.
Welfare reform, experienced on the ground, is not a rosy picture. The majority of adult welfare clients are mothers--over 90 percent--and the time limits imposed by welfare reform throw millions of these mostly unmarried, desperate women into the labor market, where they must accept low wages, the most menial work, the poorest hours, with no benefits, and little flexibility. Hays provides a vivid portrait of their lives--debunking many of the stereotypes we have of welfare recipients--but she also steps back to explore what welfare reform reveals about the meaning of work and family life in our society. In particular, she argues that an inherent contradiction lies at the heart of welfare policy, which emphasizes traditional family values even as its ethic of "personal responsibility" requires women to work and leave their children in childcare or at home alone all day long.
Hays devoted three years to visiting welfare clients and two welfare offices, one in a medium-sized town in the Southeast, another in a large, metropolitan area in the West. Drawing on this hands-on research, Flat Broke, With Children is the first book to explore the impact of recent welfare reform on motherhood, marriage, and work in women's lives, and the first book to offer us a portrait of how welfare reform plays out in thousands of local welfare offices and in millions of homes across the nation.

About Sharon Hays

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Sharon Hays is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Women's Studies at the University of Virginia. The author of The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood, she has been interviewed for publications such as The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Working Mother Magazine, and U.S. News and World Report.
Published February 13, 2003 by Oxford University Press, USA. 308 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Gay & Lesbian, Westerns, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Assuming that a nation’s laws reflect a nation’s values, she attempts to analyze what welfare reform says about work and family life in American society today.

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While welfare reform in the mid-1990s meant new employees and equipment for some welfare offices and perks like interview clothing for some welfare recipients, it also meant harsh guidelines aimed at punishing welfare recipients who did not follow strict protocols.

Feb 01 2003 | Read Full Review of Flat Broke with Children: Wom...

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