The State of Welfare and the Single Mother: An Annotated Bibliography (Dill, 1998)


Albeda, Randy and Chris Tilly. Glass Ceilings and Bottomless Pits: Women’s Work Women’s Poverty. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1997.

Discussion of women’s poverty and the welfare policies that the United States has adopted. A brief history of anti-poverty is included as well as suggestions for alternative policies that could keep women out of poverty and closer to gender equality.

Armstrong, Louise. Of ‘Sluts’ and ‘Bastards’: A Feminist Decodes the Child Welfare Debate. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1995.

Focused on bureaucratic oppression of poor women and children due to welfare reform measures. Blends the views of the poor, agency personnel, and feminists to further her argument that conformity to the system is vital to protect against involuntary removal of children.

Berrick, Jill Duerr. Faces of Poverty: Portraits of Women and Children on Welfare. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

A documented study of America’s welfare system and the particular circumstances of five women and their children who are dependent on this system. Focuses on diverse families in an attempt to refute the myths of welfare mothers as being lazy, irresponsible, and conniving. Through statistics, Berrick illustrates how welfare alone does not lift a family out of poverty and contends that the system actually encourages mothers to cheat in order to make ends meet.

Edin, Kathryn. There’s a Lot of Month Left at the End of the Money: How Welfare Recipients Make Ends Meet in Chicago. New York & London: Garland Publishing Inc., 1993.

Challenges, without denying the problem of welfare, the common stereotypes held about welfare recipients. Illustrates the complexity of the welfare problem and contends that many welfare recipients have a good deal of work ethic, and most work as hard as their middle-class counterparts.

Edin, Kathryn and Laura Lein. Making Ends Meet: How Single Mothers Survive Welfare and LowWage Work . New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1997.

A study of the economic lives of mothers on welfare or in low-wage employment. Edin and Lein examine how two groups of single mothers, those on AFDC and those employed in low-wage jobs, manage their family finances. 379 women were interviewed to compare the economic strategies of mothers on welfare with poor, working mothers. Drawing on data obtained from these interviews and other national studies the authors assert that neither welfare-reliant nor low-wage earning women are able to “make ends meet” on either their welfare checks or their paychecks alone.

Gordon, Linda. Pitied But Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare 1890-1935. New York: The Free Press, 1994.

Probes the historical assumptions about single mothers as symptoms and cause of social decay; describes the stratified system of public assistance that was enacted in the 1930s in which some recipients were given aid labeled “entitlements” and others, including the single mothers, received”welfare.”

Holloway, Susan D. Through My Own Eyes: Single Mothers and the Cultures of Poverty. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.

Encompasses results of interviews conducted over a three-year period of 14 poor, single-parent women in Boston of Anglo, Latina, and African American backgrounds. The intent of this study was to learn about the attitudes and beliefs of these women toward parenting, employment, and welfare; and it reveals similarities and variations among these women’s approaches to attaining self-reliance, education, and respect for themselves and their children.

Kingfisher, Catherine Pelissier. Women in the American Welfare Trap. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996.

An ethnographic study of a welfare office and two welfare rights groups. Based on women’s conversations with each other, Kingfisher addresses various important issues such as: policy formation and implementation, low-income women’s beliefs and aspirations, and the possibilities for women working cooperatively to change the welfare system. Despite the preconceived notion that women on welfare are victims without control, the women in this book actively work to exert their autonomy within the confines of the system.

Mink, Gwendolyn. Welfare’s End. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998.

The essential point of this work is that welfare is really a guarantee of women’s equality. In the context of this work, Mink, a Professor of Political Science at University of California, Santa Cruz, asserts that welfare is an income owed to those who work inside the home raising children. The campaign to make fathers support their children may have the unwanted effect of women being dependent on men they want nothing to do with. Mink effectively argues against the myths of welfare dependency and stresses that without a fundamental right to economic security provided by some kind of income guarantee, women cannot achieve equality in the family, the labor market, or the state.

Mulroy, Elizabeth A. The New Uprooted: Single Mothers in Urban Life. Auburn House, 1995.

Through the voices of the women themselves, Mulroy describes their struggles to meet three basic needs: personal safety and security from abuse, shelter in the form of affordable and decent housing for their families, and employment that provides a living wage.

Schein, Virginia E. Working from the Margins: Voices of Mothers in Poverty. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, 1995.

Interviews with 30 poor single mothers in cities, small towns, and rural areas that address issues such as work, parenting, and welfare. Interviewees include a large number of white mothers, rather than the stereotypical black, urban mother, which aids in providing a more inclusive picture of the state of poverty. Schein’s study supports the theory that fulltime employment is not enough to lift single mothers out of poverty.

Sidel, Ruth. Keeping Women and Children Last: America’s War on the Poor. New York: Penguin Books, 1996.

Sequel to her 1986 work, Women and Children Last: The Plight of Poor Women in Affluent Women. Offers a corrective to misperceptions of the poor, such as that they do not hold full-time jobs.


Deily, Elspeth K. “Working with Welfare: Can Single Mothers Manage?” Berkeley Women’s Law Journal 12 (Spring 1997): 132-139.

This article discusses the Welfare Act, specifically that its success relies on how well the welfare-to-work program works. As argued in the article, these programs are unlikely to provide poor women adequate support because of low paying jobs and lack of affordable childcare.

Edin, Kathryn and Laura Lein. “Work, Welfare, and Single Mothers’ Economic Survival Strategies.” American Sociological Review 62, no. 2 (April 1997): 253-266.

Authors argue that the strategies a mother uses may affect her ability to move from welfare to work. Using evidence from in-depth interviews (conducted from 1988-1992) with 379 low-income single mothers in the Boston area, Chicago, Charleston, and San Antonio, they show that welfare recipients and low-wage workers employ a set of survival strategies to make ends meet. According to the authors, the range of strategies available to mothers are “shaped by the social-structural characteristics of the cities in which they live and by the quality of their private social safety nets.” For longer treatment, see their Making Ends Meet: How Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low-Wage Work (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1997).

“On a Precipice: Women, the Welfare State, and Work.” Feminist Studies 24, no. 1 (Spring 1998): 7-114.

An entire issue devoted to the topic of welfare. A special section on feminism and welfare. Topics discussed include the interpretation of U.S. social policy from a 19th-century perspective; scholarship and activism; dependency, childcare and welfare; childcare and welfare; welfare justice and poor single mothers; the national welfare rights movement; and economic restructuring and gender issues. Includes “The Lady and the Tramp (II): Feminist welfare politics, poor single mothers, and the challenge of welfare justice,” by Gwendolyn Mink (55-64), in which she partly blames the absence of a feminist opposition for the passing of the Personal Responsibility Act and reasons that single mothers should be given an allowance in recognition of their work at home. Mink argues that welfare is a condition of women’s equality (which she defines as full and independent citizenship), and that without welfare mothers who work inside the home are denied equality.

Wijnberg, M.H. and S. Weinger. Families in Society 79, no. 2 (Mar/Apr 1998): 212-219.

A qualitative study that investigates the views of 42 poor single mothers regarding their goals in relation to work and evaluates how helpful the social support networks are in enabling them to make transitions to work. Respondents are subgrouped by work category, e.g. employed full-time, employed part-time, women students, and full-time mothers in an attempt to “help avoid the dangers inherent in lumping all single mothers into a large and potentially inaccurate category.”

Compiled by Elizabeth F. Dill, Graduate Student, University of Wisconsin-MadisonSchool of Library and Information Studies, October 1998