This insightful article sets out to demonstrate the ground-level hardships of welfare reform in American society. Specifically, the article demonstrates that there still exists a wide gap between the more worthy objectives behind welfare reform in the US (e.g., independence, self-sufficiency, strong families, and a concern for the common good), and the ground-level realities about the failure of welfare reform to meet these noble objectives.
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The author undertakes qualitative research (ethnographic in design) to collect primary data from caseworkers and welfare mothers. One of the central points, coming out of the study, is that most of the poor citizens in welfare today are in a bad shape than they would have been had the Personal Responsibility Act never been passed because they seem unable to cut the cycle of dependence on welfare. Additionally, the author demonstrates that most of the failures in the welfare programs are reinforced by factors that seem innate to welfare seekers.
It is a lack of education, inability to find permanent jobs, low wages, unstable living arrangements, frequent layoffs, and having to be the primary caregiver and sole breadwinner for sick children and disabled parents. Another central point relates to the discussion of the characteristics of those on reform, where the author argues that the majority are inconsistently non-white, do not have minimum educational requirements, only have experience for unskilled jobs, suffer from physical or mental health challenges, have a prolonged history of domestic violence, and have dependents to care for.
In general, it can be suggested that the article is an eye-opener to the failures of the US welfare system to address the real challenges faced by poor families. The article demonstrates that although a considerable proportion of American families are faced with problems that require to be addressed through social welfare reform, the realities on the ground point to a welfare system that is averse to the needs of poor families as demonstrated by the system of rules, punishments and time limits that continue to effectively pressure the poor to steer clear of the welfare office.