Academic journal article Social Work Research

Partner Abuse and Welfare Receipt among African American and Latino Women Living in a Low-Income Neighborhood

Academic journal article Social Work Research

Partner Abuse and Welfare Receipt among African American and Latino Women Living in a Low-Income Neighborhood

Article excerpt

This study investigates the relationship between partner abuse and welfare receipt among African American women and Latinas. The authors used data from the Effect of Violence on Work and Family Project, a random sample of women in a low-income neighborhood in Chicago. The results showed that the association between the combined measure of current abuse and welfare receipt was positive and significant, suggesting that abused women are more likely to receive welfare than nonabused women among African Americans and Latinas. However, there were differences between the two groups of women in terms of the relationship between partner abuse and welfare receipt. Findings suggest a need for culturally sensitive approaches in dealing with welfare recipients who are victims of domestic violence.

Key words: abuse; African Americans; Latinas; low-income; welfare; women

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) (P.L. 104-193) of 1996 established a maximum 60 months limit for total lifetime receipt of federal benefits and mandated that welfare recipients be involved in work-related activities within 24 months of initial enrollment. These rules potentially endanger recipients in abusive relationships, because partner abuse may interfere with their ability to work and thus lengthen the time it takes to achieve economic independence from the welfare system. Abused women may be left without any economic safety net if new welfare rules fail to address the special needs that violence creates (Raphael, 1996a; Tolman & Raphael, 2000). To protect domestic violence victims, Congress included the Family Violence Option (FVO) in PRWORA. The FVO allows states to exempt the victims of partner abuse temporarily from federal work requirements while they receive social services aimed at eliminating violence in their lives (Raphael, 1999a).

Despite growing concerns about the roles of partner abuse in poor women's lives after passage of PRWORA, there is little research on this issue. Most previous empirical studies have focused on the effect of partner abuse on women's employment, but not on their welfare receipt (Browne, Salomon, & Bassuk, 1999; Lloyd & Taluc, 1999). The few studies that have directly examined the relationship between partner abuse and welfare receipt are limited in that they have relied either on a nonrandom sample (Honeycutt, Marshall, & Weston, 2001) or on bivariate analyses (Plichta, 1996; Salomon, Bassuk, & Brooks, 1996). Furthermore, racial and ethnic differences and the effect of partner's direct interference on women's welfare receipt have rarely been studied.

To fill gaps in earlier research, we addressed the following questions:

* Are abused women more likely to receive welfare than nonabused women, given other things equal? Does a partner's direct work interference show the relationship with welfare status similar to that of physical abuse?

* Does the relationship between partner abuse and welfare differ by race and ethnicity?

To answer these questions, we conducted a secondary analysis of data from the Effect of Violence on Work and Family Project (EVP) (Lloyd, 1996; Lloyd & Taluc, 1999), using multivariate logistic regressions.

THEORETICAL ISSUES

Partner abuse has only recently become an issue in studies of welfare dependency. The two dominant theories of welfare receipt--the rational choice model and the culture of welfare model (Bane & Ellwood, 1994; Becker, 1964; Mead, 1992)--do not explicitly include partner abuse in their conceptual frameworks. Only the barriers model, a recent theory of welfare receipt, pays direct attention to partner abuse in welfare recipients' lives (Danziger et al., 2000).

First, the rational choice model suggests that human capital and family situations are the main determinants of an individual's welfare receipt. …

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