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Flat Broke with Children: Women in the Age of Welfare Reform

4.2 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195176018
ISBN-10: 0195176014
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Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"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
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (October 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195176014
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195176018
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.6 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #370,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Zoe Weslowski on February 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book to do a research paper on the topic of welfare reform. This book has been both enlightening and frightening in its information and the arguments put forth by the author. The research is amazingly thorough and well documented throughout the text. Hays points out many contradictions concerning the goals set forth by the Personal Responsibility Act.

The bottom line is that we are living in a society that is still grossly unequal in terms of sex, race, and class. I especially appreciated the realism that the ideals and provisions of welfare reform fall far below any sort of real hope of mobility in terms of the demands of an evolving global market place.

This book is not just about welfare reform; it is indicative of a society that we are becoming - one that undermines the care of our nation's children and welfare for struggling families and most especially the plight of single mothers.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Flat Broke with Children: Women in the Age of Welfare Reform is a good solid book that's more suited to the professional classes and college students. Flat Broke with Children: Women in the Age of Welfare Reform looks honestly at the issues facing ladies on welfare and the struggles they face weighing family needs against new often conflicting welfare rules. Flat Broke with Children: Women in the Age of Welfare Reform chronicles how welfare changes work against the very populations it is supposed to be helping. Flat Broke with Children: Women in the Age of Welfare Reform embodies a political shift from pure entitlement to a temporary stop gap or buffer between paid employment. The idea that paid employment is the goal of welfare reform is hard wired into every part of its workings is amply illustrated by this book.

Flat Broke with Children: Women in the Age of Welfare Reform would have been a much more fun to read book if it was not so full of high tone analysis and socialworker speak. I had hoped this would be far more a book about welfare reform as told by actual mom's and dad's with families on welfare. The most important voice on Welfare Reform is the voice this book effectively muzzles, that of mom's and dads on welfare in the post Welfare Reform law era. I don't care what its like to be flat broke on welfare from a social worker or professionals perspective. I was hoping to hear countless stories about what it is really like to live on post welfare law, public assistance told in unflinching detail by actual real welfare receipants.

I wanted to hear the actual voices of poor people speaking on the topic of welfare reform and how it has affected or changed their lives in their own words.
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By A Customer on February 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hays does a remarkable job of revealing the cultural logic behind welfare reform. In the process, we do not "just" learn about welfare recipients and their values, we learn something about our own values. It becomes very clear in reading this book that we must resolve the tensions that all families (and especially women) feel when it comes to which comes first: work or family. Only then can we figure out what is fair and good to ask of welfare mothers.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who seeks a better understanding of the paradoxes and contraditions in our laws regulating the family.
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By A Customer on February 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The old cliche' of welfare and women who sit home eating well and driving nice cars is just that-Ms. Hays reflects the stories of the real women and children affected by our belief in the Horatio Algier syndrome. Too many variables exist to allow the cliche' of welfare and families to continue. The stories in this book are real people, real families who are experiencing the backlash of our punitive welfare reforms. This is not a book per say, but real people, people we care about, who are speaking to us. We need to listen.
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Format: Paperback
Welfare systems have been great example of how power relations work themselves out, and how women and mothers have consistently gotten less than satisfactory social/public services. The book Flat Broke with Children illustrates how North America paints women as a different segment in society, that women have different ways of believing and acting out their, “struggle.” It has been fairly clear in North America, that women need help, that they are incapable of accomplishing goals independent of men, that for something to be done she must first consult a man, or even that she must have a man’s influence for it to be considered worthy. Without allowing women to fully contribute let alone feel like they can, society is losing out on a lot of possible contributions to the world. If society doesn't allow women to feel as if they are an integral role in society, much like we have done for men, examples of inequality like the one Hays provides us will continue to sprout.
One of the issues that Hays argues is that, “Welfare reform was founded on the assumption that welfare mothers do not share American values and are, in fact, personally responsible for undermining our nations moral principles,” (Hays, pg. 215). This point illustrates a couple of different problems, one being that welfare reform was founded based on the idea that all welfare mothers share ideals that would take advantage of, or manipulate the system and that therefore enables, “…policies and procedures …aimed at ‘fixing’ these women. Another problem would be that due to this concept, public perception of welfare mothers now reflect this idea, that all welfare mothers are tricksters, and that they will manipulate and take advantage of a system that is put in place to help them.
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