The Overseer of the Poor: View from the County Welfare Office
In Chapters 3 and 4, the views of the public at large toward the poor and the near-poor revealed a structure of attitudes which sharply differentiated those "on welfare" from those "getting a little help from the government." This distinction appears to be based upon moral entitlement to benefits, related in turn to the extent of contribution the recipient appears to be making, and whether the recipient is "trying."
It is important, then, to explore the views of one with great responsibility for providing these contested social benefits: the county welfare director. What are the director's views of recipients, and what does he or she think are the views of the general public? Do the same themes persist here as emerged in Chapters 3 and 4?
These data come from responses to a questionnaire entitled "To Provide Hope," which was sent to a random sample of county welfare directors (N = 340) and, where appropriate, child welfare agency directors (N = 70), around the country in 1969 ( Sarri 1970; Silberman 1970; Benjamin 1977). Of the total questionnaires distributed, 240 were returned and, of those, 225 were sufficiently complete to be usable in this analysis. Two sets of questions are relevant here in revealing the attitudes and judgments of the public welfare directors.