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When There Is No Welfare: The Income Packaging Strategies of Mothers Without Earnings or Cash Assistance Following an Economic Downturn

Publication Abstract

Seefeldt, Kristin, and Heather Sandstrom. 2015. "When There Is No Welfare: The Income Packaging Strategies of Mothers Without Earnings or Cash Assistance Following an Economic Downturn." Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 1(1): 139-158.

The 1996 welfare reform law sought to reformulate single mothers' income package, replacing cash welfare checks with paychecks. However, many single mothers have not been able to do that and have neither earnings nor cash assistance. Among a sample of single mothers in Los Angeles and southeast Michigan, we find that when single mothers lose jobs and do not receive cash assistance, they package income from a variety of sources (such as other public assistance programs and informal child support), find others in their social networks to pay their bills, or move in with others. However, their income packaging strategies are fraught with challenges. Benefits from certain public programs are difficult to secure; financial assistance from friends and family members can quickly vanish, particularly if a partner is deported or jailed; and doubling up with others often leads to living in crowded and unsafe conditions.

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