Barriers to Self-Sufficiency: Are Wages and Welfare Enough?

  • Laura Lein


Low-income mothers are caught in a conundrum: Neither the income from the jobs they get, nor welfare—when they are eligible and can receive it—is sufficient to support their households. The pressures of their situation are exacerbated by at least three aspects of their lives: The need to deal with multiple agencies and complex bureaucracies in order to gain the goods and services they need for their families; the combination of their own and their children’s heightened probability of medical conditions coupled with irregular access to medical insurance; and the frequent household and community crises that sap their personal and financial resources.


Public Housing Single Mother Cash Transfer Welfare Reform Food Stamp 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Acs, G. and Loprest, P. with Roberts, T. (2001). Final synthesis report of findings from ASPE “Leavers”grants. Report submitted to Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Washington, DC:The Urban Institute. leavers99/synthesis02/index.htm.Google Scholar
  2. Angel, R., Lein, L., Henrici, J., and Leventhal, E. (2001). Health insurance coverage for children and their caregivers in low-income urban neighborhoods. Welfare, Children, and Families. Policy Brief 01–2. Baltimore, MD:Johns Hopkins University.Google Scholar
  3. Burke, J. P., Williams, K., Gaskill, S. P., Hazuda, H. P., Haffner, S. M., and Stern, M. P. (1999). Rapid rise in the incidence of Type 2 diabetes from 1987 to 1996: Results from the San Antonio Heart Study. Archives of Internal Medicine, 159(13), 1450–1456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Burton, L. M. and Whitfield, K. E. (2003).“Weathering” toward poor health in later life: Co-morbidity in low-income urban families, Public Policy and Aging Report, 13(3), 13–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Edin, K. (1993). There’s a lot of month left at the end of the money: How AFDC recipients make ends meet in Chicago. New York: Garland Press.Google Scholar
  6. Edin, K. and Lein, L. (1996). Work, welfare, and single mothers’ economic survival strategies. American Sociological Review, 61, 253–266.Google Scholar
  7. Edin, K. and Lein, L. (1997). Making ends meet: How single mothers survive welfare and low wage work. NewYork: The Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  8. Edin, K. and Lein, L. (1998). The private safety net: The role of charitable organizations in the lives of the poor. Housing Policy Debate, 9(3), 541–573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Garey, A. (1999). Weaving work and motherhood. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Henly, J. and Danziger, S. (1996). Confronting welfare stereotypes: Characteristics of general assistance recipients and postassistance employment. Social Work Research, 20(4), 217–227.Google Scholar
  11. Henly, J. and Lyons, S. (2000). The negotiations of child care and employment demands among low- income parents. Journal of Social Issues, 56(4), 683–705.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Howell, J. (1973). Hard living on clay street: Portraits of blue collar families. Garden City, NY:Anchor Press.Google Scholar
  13. Isaacs, J. B. and Lyon, M. R. (2000). A cross-state examination of families leaving welfare: Findings from the ASPE-funded leavers studies. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  14. Jarrett, R. L. (1994). Living Poor: Family life among single parent, African-American women. Social Problems, 41, 30–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Johns Hopkins University. (2002). Website:
  16. Joyce Foundation. (2002). Welfare to work: What have we learned. Chicago, IL:The Joyce Foundation.Google Scholar
  17. Kolodinsky, J. and Cranwell, M. (2000). The poor pay more? Now they don’t even have a store to choose from: bringing a supermarket back to the city. Consumers Interests Annual, 46, 101–106.Google Scholar
  18. Lambert, S. (1999). Lower-wage workers and the new realities of work and family. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, 562, 174–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lambert, S., Waxman, E., and Haley-Lock, A. (2002). Against the odds: A study of instability in lower-skilled jobs. Working paper. Project on the Public Economy of Work. Chicago: University of Chicago.Google Scholar
  20. Lein, L., Benjamin, A. McManus, M., and Roy, K. (2002). Economic roulette: When is a job not a job? American Anthropological Association, August 17.Google Scholar
  21. Link, B. G. and Phelan, J. C. (1996). Editorial: Understanding sociodemographic differences in health-The role of fundamental social causes. American Journal of Public Health, 86, 471–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Nathan, R. P. and Gais, T. L. (2002). Implementing the personal responsibility act of 1996:A first look. New York: Federalism Research Group, The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. Scholar
  23. Newman, K. S. (1999). No shame in my game: The working poor in the inner city. NewYork: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. and the Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  24. Newman, K. S. (2001).“Hard times on 125th Street: Harlem’s poor confront welfare reform” American Anthropologist, 103(3),762–778.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Schexnayder, D., Lein, L. Douglas, K., Schroeder, D., Dominguez, D., and Richards, F (2002). Surviving without TANF: An analysis of families diverted from or leaving TANF. The Texas Department of Human Resources.
  26. Schexnayder, D., Olson, J., Schroeder, D., Betsinger, A., and Shao-Chee Sim. (1998). Achieving change for Texans evaluation: Net impacts through December 1997. Austin: University of Texas, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.Google Scholar
  27. Stack, C. (1974). All our kin: Strategies for survival in a Black community. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  28. Texas Department of Human Services. (2003). Website: refguide/2000/StateRankings.html;
  29. U.S. Census, 1990, Economic Characteristics.Google Scholar
  30. Weinberg, Z. (2000). No place to shop: Food access lacking in the inner city. Race, Poverty & the Environment, (no page).Google Scholar
  31. Williams, D. R. and Collins, C. (1995).U. S. Socioeconomic and racial differences in health: Patterns and explanation. Annual Review of Sociology, 29, 349–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Winkleby, M.A. and Cubbin, C. (2003). Influence of individual and neighbourhood socioeconomic status on mortality among Black, Mexican-American, and White women and men in the United States. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 57(6), 444–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Winston, P. (1999). Welfare, children and families: A three city study. overview and design. Working Paper. Johns Hopkins University.Google Scholar
  34. Zedlewski, S. (2002). Are shrinking caseloads always a good thing? Short takes on welfare policy, Number 6. Washington, DC:The Urban Institute.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Jill Duerr Berrick and Bruce Fuller 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura Lein

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations