Women in the American Welfare Trap

By Catherine Pélissier Kingfisher | Go to book overview

Chapter 9
Trapped as They Are

It'd be REALLY INTERESTING to, to find out when you get all through with this, if a profile of an AP worker and a profile of a CLIENT are VERY very much ALIKE...like a whole, all OVER, overwhelming sense of POWERlessness, and we in a sense are AS TRAPPED as they are. ( Anne Jensen 6/28/90)

When Anne made the above comment she was expressing comembership. Specifically, workers and recipients are the same insofar as both are trapped in the welfare system, and both suffer from an "overwhelming sense of powerlessness." These feelings of entrapment and powerlessness were of course shared by recipients, who frequently referred to the dilemmas of being "stuck on welfare." Such sentiments, moreover, express the economic reality of both groups' dependence on the welfare system.

As I have already discussed, the two groups of women did not share high levels of educational achievement, and none of them came from well-off families. Indeed, one of the workers grew up in an AFDC family, and another had a sister who was currently receiving AFDC. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that a comparison of the women's employment histories shows that the kinds of jobs that recipients had or were currently holding are strikingly similar to those that workers had held prior to becoming AP workers (see Table 1). Most of these jobs were low paid, low status, and defined as "women's" work. Jobs that did not overlap were also often similar in terms of pay and status (e.g., janitor, bakery worker, dry cleaning worker, farm laborer, etc.). The difference between the two groups is that, in the category of jobs not shared, workers held more "professional" jobs in bookkeeping, teaching, management, and the like; and, that workers did not report engaging in illegal work activities such as prostitution or check stealing. Nevertheless, the vast majority of workers had been clerical workers prior to becoming AP workers (see Appendix B, Table B2); and recipients, as well as workers, listed several "professional" jobs, such as math tutor (junior college level), lab tech-

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Women in the American Welfare Trap
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Chapter 1 - Producing the World in Everyday Talk 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Welfare Trap I: Recipients 16
  • Chapter 3 - A Tenuous Advocacy 43
  • Chapter 4 - Us 56
  • Chapter 5 - Them 72
  • Chapter 6 - The Welfare Trap II: Workers 82
  • Chapter 7 - Good and (Mostly) Bad Clients 98
  • Chapter 8 - Further Productions: Attitudes and Policy 117
  • Chapter 9 - Trapped as They Are 131
  • Chapter 10 - Conclusions 157
  • Appendix A: Transcripts 163
  • Appendix B 189
  • Bibliography 195
  • Index 203
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