From Publishers Weekly
While welfare reform in the mid-1990s meant new employees and equipment for some welfare offices and perks like interview clothing for some welfare recipients, it also meant harsh guidelines aimed at punishing welfare recipients who did not follow strict protocols. In Flat Broke with Children: Women in the Age of Welfare Reform, Sharon Hays, using her research from two towns, focuses on single mothers who have at least occasionally relied on welfare for support. She finds that they are often pushed into dead-end employment with no career stability, while the government's emphasis on "family values" encourages them to marry men who can support them. These mixed messages, put forth via a rigid bureaucracy, pull welfare recipients and well-intentioned case workers in multiple directions. Hayes's subjects tell stories of the extreme poverty, broken families, sexual abuse, homelessness, and the lengths to which they go in attempts to juggle multiple part-time low-paying jobs, but they do not portray themselves as victims.
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"With President Bush pushing for more hours in the required workweek, the timing couldn't be better for 'Flat Broke With Children'; Hays's detailed, judicious survey of the reforms punctures mythology on all sides of the debate.... Indeed, the strength of 'Flat Broke' is its blending of an academic's statistics and analysis with the techniques and eye for detail of a journalist."--Boston Globe
"A balanced portrait of the most controversial of all public programs. Thoughful and well researched."--Kirkus Reviews
"Hays' subjects tell stories of the extreme poverty, broken families, sexual abuse, homelessness, and the lengths to which they go in attempts to juggle multiple part-time low-paying jobs, but they do not portray themselves as victims."--Publishers Weekly
"This very readable, important, and stimulating work deals with the consequences of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996."--Library Journal
"Flat Broke with Children is simply the best original work on welfare reform to date. Based on interviews with dozens of welfare recipients in two cities, it explains how 'reformed' welfare really works on the ground--and what it does to the lives of poor families. Painful as it often is to read, Flat Broke belongs at the top of the to-do list for anyone involved in the welfare debate, on any side."--Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By In America
"A compelling study of the American system of welfare reform. Sharon Hays' engaging book is replete with insights on the impact of welfare reform on the procedures of welfare offices and on the lives of mothers and children who receive public assistance. I rank it among the best studies of poverty and welfare in the last two decades."--William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, Harvard University