Working after Welfare: How Women Balance Jobs and Family in the Wake of Welfare Reform
Wednesday, February 11, 2009.
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
Annenberg Auditorium, 1120 Weill Hall
Reception and booksigning to follow.
Kristin Seefeldt, a Research Investigator at the Ford School and Assistant Director of the National Poverty Center, will speak from her new book, published December, 2008 by the W.E. Upjohn Institute.
Bill Clinton, in his first campaign for President, had pledged to "end welfare as we know it," and by 1996, the nation's cash welfare system had been overhauled from one that issued checks to poor single mothers to one that made receipt of benefits contingent upon looking for and getting a job.
However, 10 years after passage of welfare reform, the media and policymakers have paid little attention to the long-term outcomes of former welfare recipients who were entering the labor market, particularly the challenges these mothers face balancing work and family while navigating the low-wage labor market.
What happened to women who left welfare for work? Did they find jobs on their own? Did they keep these jobs? What impact has their work had on their child-rearing? Did these women experience the slogan coined by the State of Michigan's welfare-to-work agency: "A job, a better job, a career"?
Seefeldt attempts to answer these questions through analysis of survey data as well as in-depth qualitative interviews with former welfare recipients from an urban area in Michigan. The stories she reports paint a portrait of the lives of mothers who, though working primarily in the low-wage labor market, are dealing with issues that are common to working mothers: balancing career goals with family demands, finding dignity and meaning in work, and finding time to participate in their childrens' lives.
Seefeldt explores policy options that could increase the financial well-being of single mothers as well as support the role that motherhood plays in their lives. She argues that the policy discourse around making the workplace more "friendly" to parents needs to move beyond white collar jobs, often held by married mothers, to include the labor market as a whole, acknowledging the special challenges faced by low-income single parents while also granting them the same status as other parents.
Co-sponsored by the National Poverty Center.