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So You Think I Drive a Cadillac? (3RD 11 Edition)


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This down-to-earth look at the welfare system provides readers with stories from welfare recipients themselves and from those who recently left welfare for work: how they got onto welfare, what the reality of welfare (and welfare reform) is for them, issues in raising their families, their plans, hopes, and dreams are for the future, and some of the struggles they face as they try to leave the welfare system.


Welfare recipients who were interviewed by the author in Florida and Oregon share their perspectives on work requirements, family caps, time limits, and other features of the new welfare reform (TANF) program. They discuss the importance of a livable wage and health insurance in providing the needed security to leave welfare for good. These qualitative interviews are theoretically grounded, and supplemented with up-to-date statewide and national data on welfare reform and its consequences.


The author says, “Underneath the political rhetoric and welfare statistics are real live human beings who are trying to make sense out of their lives.” Their voices provide a crucial counterpoint to the politicians and policy “experts” who have shaped the policy reform initiative. They show us that the so-called welfare problem is related to the insecurity of low-tier work in the United States.

About the Author

Karen Seccombe, M.S.W, Ph.D . is a Professor of Community Health at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.  She received her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Washington focusing on health and social welfare policy.  She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Washington State University, where she continued to develop her public policy interests in inequality, families, and health.  She is the author of Families and their Social Worlds (Pearson Allyn & Bacon), Families in Poverty (Pearson Allyn & Bacon),  Just Don’t Get Sick: Access to Health Care in the Aftermath of Welfare Reform , with Kim Hoffman (Rutgers University Press), and Marriage and Families: Relationships in Social Context , with Rebecca Warner (Wadsworth).  She is a Fellow in the National Council on Family Relations, and a member of the American Sociological Association and the Pacific Sociological Association.   Her current research explores the health care needs of families after they leave welfare. She resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband Richard and her young daughters, Natalie Rose and Olivia Lin, where they enjoy hiking, kayaking, and sampling all the kid-friendly local attractions. 

Table of Contents



1.Introduction: Putting a Face on Welfare.

Critical and Feminist Frameworks.

Specific Contributions of This Study of Lived Experience.

Welfare and Public Policy.

Where Are the Voices of Welfare Recipients in the Discussion?

A National Profile of Welfare Recipients.

Who  Participated in This Study?

Conclusion and Organization.

Critical Thinking Questions

2.Historical and Persisting Dilemmas: How Do We Explain Poverty, What Should We Do about It?

History of Cash Assistance.

Welfare Reform: “Ending Welfare As We Know It.”

Explanations of Poverty and Welfare Use.


Social Structuralism.

Culture of Poverty.


Critical Thinking Questions.

3.Stigma and Discrimination.

Awareness of Societal Attitudes Toward Welfare Recipients.

Racism and Welfare.

Contexts Where Stigma and Discrimination Occur.

Managing Stigma.


Distancing Themselves From Other Welfare Recipients.

Blaming External Forces:  “It’s Not My Fault.”

Extolling the Importance of Motherhood.

Critical Thinking Questions.

4.Why Welfare?

The Influence of Social Structure.


The Risk of Losing Health Insurance.


Fathers’ Involvement.


Racism and Sexism.

The Welfare System Breeds “Dependence” on the System.


Bad Luck.

Poor Health.

The Termination of Relationships.


Why the Inconsistency between Explanations of Their Own and Others' Use of Welfare.

Critical Thinking Questions.

5.Day to Day Living and Decision Making.

Daily Activities: Wild Living or Depressing Routine?

Making Ends Meet with “The Check.”

Living and Surviving on Food Stamps.

Juggling Bills.

Coping with the Stress.

Affording Life's “Luxuries.”

Supplementing Welfare.

Critical Thinking Questions.


6.Living and Surviving Welfare: The Importance of Family, Friends, and Formal Support.

Informal  Support: Help From Families, Friends and Neighbors, and Children's Fathers.

Assistance from Families.

Assistance from Friends and Neighbors.

Assistance from Children’s Fathers.

Formal Support: Help from Charities and Social Services.

Working Side Jobs: Is This Fraud?

Critical Thinking Questions.

7.Insiders' Perspectives on the Welfare System.

Florida WAGES: A Case Example.

The Role of the Government.

Opinions of the Welfare System.

Strengths of the Welfare System.

Weaknesses of the System

Welfare Reforms.

Time Limits.

Work Requirements.

Family Caps.

Ideas for Reform.

Critical Thinking Questions.

8.Getting Off of Welfare.

The Women in the Middle: Increasing Human Capital Is Only One Answer.

Education and Employment Training

Work Experience

The Importance of Our Social Structure.

Not Enough Jobs.

The Type of Jobs Available for Women on Welfare.

The Value of Health Insurance

Why Some Women on Welfare Are Hesitant to Take Jobs.

Critical Thinking Questions.

9.Conclusion: Lessons Learned and Visions of Change.

The Gendered Nature of Welfare and Welfare Reform.

Has Welfare Reform Been a Success or Failure?

The Reasons for Its Failure.

Insights from Other Countries.

Critical Thinking Questions.


Websites of Interest.



Product Details

Seccombe, Karen
Seccombe, Karen T
Public Policy - Social Services & Welfare
Services & Welfare
Sociology-Children and Family
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Mysearchlab Series for Social Work
Publication Date:
February 2010
Grade Level:
College/higher education:
9 x 6.9 x 0.7 in 363 gr

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » American Studies » Poverty
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » Children and Family
History and Social Science » Sociology » Poverty
History and Social Science » Sociology » Social Work
History and Social Science » World History » General
Textbooks » General

So You Think I Drive a Cadillac? (3RD 11 Edition) Used Trade Paper
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