Working after Welfare: How Women Balance Jobs and Family in the Wake of Welfare Reform

Working after Welfare: How Women Balance Jobs and Family in the Wake of Welfare Reform

Working after Welfare: How Women Balance Jobs and Family in the Wake of Welfare Reform

Working after Welfare: How Women Balance Jobs and Family in the Wake of Welfare Reform

Synopsis

This book, tapping into the quantitative and qualitative evidence gathered in the Women’s Employment Study (WES), offers insights into the lives of women in an urban Michigan county who left welfare for work and the role their family decisions play in their labor market decisions.

Excerpt

In 2005 and 2006, the New York Times ran a number of articles about women's choices regarding motherhood, careers, and the balance between the two. “Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood,” claimed one article, citing a “trend” among female Ivy League students to say that they would rather be stay-at-home mothers than leaders in business, medicine, or other sectors. A history professor quoted in the publication noted that these young women were “being realistic” about the difficulty of combining motherhood and work. Others mentioned in the article doubted the judgment of high-powered career women with children. One young woman commented, “I see a lot of women in their thirties who have full-time nannies, and I just question if their kids are getting the best.”

“Stretched to the Limit, Women Stall March to Work” was the headline of another article, appearing in the Times' business section (Porter 2006). Women such as Cathie Watson-Short, 37, a former executive in the high-tech industry of California's Silicon Valley who decided to stay at home with her children, were profiled about their challenges balancing work and family obligations, with the latter often winning out. Watson-Short was quoted in the article as saying, “Most of us thought we would work and have kids, at least that was what we were brought up thinking we would do—no problem. But really we were kind of duped. None of us realized how hard it is.”

Embedded within the “Stretched to Limit” article were three sentences acknowledging that a particular group of women, single mothers, posed an exception to the “trend” away from paid work in the formal economy toward staying at home with children. Welfare reform, along with other policy changes, the article noted, had helped fuel an increase in single mothers' labor force participation, from about 62 percent in 1995 to about 73 percent in 2000. The low work effort of single mothers receiving welfare was headline news and at the top of the nation's political agenda in the early to mid-1990s. Bill Clinton, in his first campaign for president, had pledged to “end welfare as we know it,” and by . . .

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