Ensuring Poverty: Welfare Reform in Feminist Perspective

Ensuring Poverty: Welfare Reform in Feminist Perspective

Ensuring Poverty: Welfare Reform in Feminist Perspective

Ensuring Poverty: Welfare Reform in Feminist Perspective

Synopsis

In Ensuring Poverty, Felicia Kornbluh and Gwendolyn Mink assess the gendered history of welfare reform. They foreground arguments advanced by feminists for a welfare policy that would respect single mothers' rights while advancing their opportunities and assuring economic security for their families. Kornbluh and Mink consider welfare policy in the broad intersectional context of gender, race, poverty, and inequality. They argue that the subject of welfare reform always has been single mothers, the animus always has been race, and the currency always has been inequality. Yet public conversations about poverty and welfare, even today, rarely acknowledge the nexus between racialized gender inequality and the economic vulnerability of single-mother families.

Since passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) by a Republican Congress and the Clinton administration, the gendered dimensions of antipoverty policy have receded from debate. Mink and Kornbluh explore the narrowing of discussion that has occurred in recent decades and the path charted by social justice feminists in the 1990s and early 2000s, a course rejected by policy makers. They advocate a return to the social justice approach built on the equality of mothers, especially mothers of color, in policies aimed at poor families.

Excerpt

In a study published in February 2015, researchers reported that the 1996 welfare reform law shortens women’s lives. Public health scholars studied two states, Florida and Connecticut, and compared the old, pre-1996 welfare program with the later one. They discovered that the new policy, authorized by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), shortened recipients’ lives by nearly six months (0.44 years). It also saved governments approximately $28,000 per recipient over her lifetime. An earlier study by the same research group found that, in Florida alone, the death rate for participants in the post-1996 welfare program was 16 percent higher than for people who had received welfare in earlier decades. “The message of the finding,” according to a scholar who was not one of its authors, “is that there is a very small but statistically significant difference in the measured death rates between these two populations.”

This book is an effort to explain how we ended up with a national policy that promotes the death of mothers. To grasp the politics and policy making that gave us the cruel program unironically called “welfare,” we ask readers to consider welfare policy in the broad intersectional context of gender, race, poverty, and in equality. the subject of welfare reform always has been single mothers, its animus always has been race, and its currency always has been in equality. Yet public conversations about poverty and welfare, even in current times, rarely acknowledge the nexus between racialized gender inequality and the economic vulnerability of single-mother families. We hope this book will broaden how we talk about the safety net and welfare justice. We offer a feminist chronicle and assessment of the contested history of welfare reform, including the alternative arguments advanced by feminists and proposals for welfare initiatives that actually would help mothers achieve independence for themselves and economic security for their families. We . . .

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