In the United States, a majority of the poor and those who work with the poor are women. Recipients of public assistance and the welfare workers who serve them are both trapped at the bottom of the American welfare system. How do they perceive their place in society? How do they assess their self-worth in the hierarchy of a bureaucratic system? In this ethnographic study of a welfare office and two welfare rights groups, Catherine Pelissier Kingfisher addresses these issues in a thought-provoking analysis, based on the women's conversations with each other.
Women in the American Welfare Trap addresses a range of significant issues: policy formation and implementation, the role of men in women's economic lives, low-income women's beliefs and aspirations, and the possibilities for women cooperatively working to change the welfare system. Indeed, Kingfisher demonstrates that women who are often viewed as victims without control actively work within the confines of the system to exert their autonomy.
Catherine Kingfisher is Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Lethbridge. She is editor of Western Welfare in Decline: Globalization and Women's Poverty, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.