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The SSRC Library allows visitors to access materials related to self-sufficiency programs, practice and research. Visitors can view common search terms, conduct a keyword search or create a custom search using any combination of the filters at the left side of this page. To conduct a keyword search, type a term or combination of terms into the search box below, select whether you want to search the exact phrase or the words in any order, and click on the blue button to the right of the search box to view relevant results.

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  • Individual Author: Washington, Valora; Reed, Mary
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2008

    This ethnographic case study of the Massachusetts voucher system tests the belief that demand subsidies increase choice and purchasing power for working poor families while improving the quality of care for children. Using multiple methodologies, we examined vouchers’ impact on parents, child care providers, and resource and referral agencies. All participants recognized the value of the subsidy. Yet low reimbursement rates forced providers to subsidize the system; many limited or refused vouchers. Providers and families had a strong bond; each was often overwhelmed by and suspicious of voucher administration. Children experienced discontinuity of care. Underresourced, resource and referral agencies struggle to balance a dual mission of service and policing. Specific policy recommendations were suggested, and adopted, in Massachusetts. (author abstract)

    This ethnographic case study of the Massachusetts voucher system tests the belief that demand subsidies increase choice and purchasing power for working poor families while improving the quality of care for children. Using multiple methodologies, we examined vouchers’ impact on parents, child care providers, and resource and referral agencies. All participants recognized the value of the subsidy. Yet low reimbursement rates forced providers to subsidize the system; many limited or refused vouchers. Providers and families had a strong bond; each was often overwhelmed by and suspicious of voucher administration. Children experienced discontinuity of care. Underresourced, resource and referral agencies struggle to balance a dual mission of service and policing. Specific policy recommendations were suggested, and adopted, in Massachusetts. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Polit, Denise F.; Nelson, Laura; Richburg-Hayes, Lashawn; Seith, David; Rich, Sarah
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2005

    The 1996 national welfare reform law imposed a five-year time limit on federally funded cash assistance, established stricter work requirements, and provided greater flexibility for states in designing and managing programs. This report — the last in a series from MDRC’s Project on Devolution and Urban Change — describes how welfare reform unfolded in Los Angeles County (particularly between 1998 and 2001) and compares welfare reform experiences and outcomes there with those in the other three Urban Change sites: Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), Miami- Dade County, and Philadelphia.

    After presenting a digest of the study’s findings, this summary report offers background on the Urban Change study in Los Angeles, depicts the county’s demographic and economic environment, describes the implementation of welfare reform, explains the effects of reform on welfare receipt and employment and on the lives of welfare recipients, describes what happened in Los Angeles neighborhoods during welfare reform, and concludes with policy implications drawn from conclusions from all four Urban...

    The 1996 national welfare reform law imposed a five-year time limit on federally funded cash assistance, established stricter work requirements, and provided greater flexibility for states in designing and managing programs. This report — the last in a series from MDRC’s Project on Devolution and Urban Change — describes how welfare reform unfolded in Los Angeles County (particularly between 1998 and 2001) and compares welfare reform experiences and outcomes there with those in the other three Urban Change sites: Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), Miami- Dade County, and Philadelphia.

    After presenting a digest of the study’s findings, this summary report offers background on the Urban Change study in Los Angeles, depicts the county’s demographic and economic environment, describes the implementation of welfare reform, explains the effects of reform on welfare receipt and employment and on the lives of welfare recipients, describes what happened in Los Angeles neighborhoods during welfare reform, and concludes with policy implications drawn from conclusions from all four Urban Change sites. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Hays, Sharon
    Reference Type: Book Chapter/Book
    Year: 2004

    Hailed as a great success, welfare reform resulted in a dramatic decline in the welfare rolls--from 4.4 million families in 1996 to 2.1 million in 2001. But what does this "success" look like to the welfare mothers and welfare caseworkers who experienced it? In Flat Broke, With Children, Sharon Hays tells us the story of welfare reform from inside the welfare office and inside the lives of welfare mothers, describing the challenges that welfare recipients face in managing their work, their families, and the rules and regulations of welfare reform.

    Welfare reform, experienced on the ground, is not a rosy picture. The majority of adult welfare clients are mothers--over 90 percent--and the time limits imposed by welfare reform throw millions of these mostly unmarried, desperate women into the labor market, where they must accept low wages, the most menial work, the poorest hours, with no benefits, and little flexibility. Hays provides a vivid portrait of their lives--debunking many of the stereotypes we have of welfare recipients--but she also steps back to explore what...

    Hailed as a great success, welfare reform resulted in a dramatic decline in the welfare rolls--from 4.4 million families in 1996 to 2.1 million in 2001. But what does this "success" look like to the welfare mothers and welfare caseworkers who experienced it? In Flat Broke, With Children, Sharon Hays tells us the story of welfare reform from inside the welfare office and inside the lives of welfare mothers, describing the challenges that welfare recipients face in managing their work, their families, and the rules and regulations of welfare reform.

    Welfare reform, experienced on the ground, is not a rosy picture. The majority of adult welfare clients are mothers--over 90 percent--and the time limits imposed by welfare reform throw millions of these mostly unmarried, desperate women into the labor market, where they must accept low wages, the most menial work, the poorest hours, with no benefits, and little flexibility. Hays provides a vivid portrait of their lives--debunking many of the stereotypes we have of welfare recipients--but she also steps back to explore what welfare reform reveals about the meaning of work and family life in our society. In particular, she argues that an inherent contradiction lies at the heart of welfare policy, which emphasizes traditional family values even as its ethic of "personal responsibility" requires women to work and leave their children in childcare or at home alone all day long.

    Hays devoted three years to visiting welfare clients and two welfare offices, one in a medium-sized town in the Southeast, another in a large, metropolitan area in the West. Drawing on this hands-on research, Flat Broke, With Children is the first book to explore the impact of recent welfare reform on motherhood, marriage, and work in women's lives, and the first book to offer us a portrait of how welfare reform plays out in thousands of local welfare offices and in millions of homes across the nation. (publisher abstract)

  • Individual Author: Knox, Virginia W.; London, Andrew S.; Scott, Ellen
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2003

    As policymakers debate proposals that affect families’ access to child care, they are keenly aware that the system of early education and care must support both parents’ employment goals and children’s developmental needs. But how does the pursuit of these two goals actually play out in the lives of very low-income families in disadvantaged neighborhoods? Examining the work and child care patterns of families who participated in two recent ethnographic studies provides new perspectives on three ways in which policymakers typically view these issues.

    First, policy discussions often divide the child care system into formal care, which in these studies encompasses care that is provided in a day care center or a licensed or certified family day care home, and informal care, which refers to minimally regulated care provided by relatives or neighbors, either in or out of the child’s home. But the ethnographic studies suggest that discussions organized around these distinctions may miss the complex blending of arrangements used by many low-income families. When families in these...

    As policymakers debate proposals that affect families’ access to child care, they are keenly aware that the system of early education and care must support both parents’ employment goals and children’s developmental needs. But how does the pursuit of these two goals actually play out in the lives of very low-income families in disadvantaged neighborhoods? Examining the work and child care patterns of families who participated in two recent ethnographic studies provides new perspectives on three ways in which policymakers typically view these issues.

    First, policy discussions often divide the child care system into formal care, which in these studies encompasses care that is provided in a day care center or a licensed or certified family day care home, and informal care, which refers to minimally regulated care provided by relatives or neighbors, either in or out of the child’s home. But the ethnographic studies suggest that discussions organized around these distinctions may miss the complex blending of arrangements used by many low-income families. When families in these studies did use formal care, it was almost always part of a larger patchwork that included informal situations. Moreover, informal care dominated many blended arrangements and was often used exclusively. Thus, for policy to truly reflect the daily experiences of low-income children, policymakers and advocates concerned with quality of care and child development need to focus on formal care, informal care, and how these forms of care are typically combined in the daily lives of low-income children.

    Second, current subsidy policy emphasizes the goal of enabling parents to choose the care arrangements that best suit their families. In reality, the control that families in these studies had over their choices was highly circumscribed by their limited money, by the sparse care options of their low-resource neighborhoods, and by the inflexibility of their role as employees. Parents ranked their children’s well-being as their top priority, and many said they would leave jobs if their children were ever placed at risk. Nevertheless, they rarely were seen taking this step unless their child care arrangements collapsed completely. Instead, they often resigned themselves to leaving their children in situations they knew were far from ideal.

    Third, the ethnographic interviews highlight a hidden but significant cost of care for low-income single parents — the enormous logistical effort required to keep arrangements intact. This level of effort may, in fact, both conflict with the requirements of parents’ jobs and reduce the amount of attention parents can devote to their children. Moreover, it may prevent parents from applying for and utilizing child care subsidies, because, even though the cost of child care was a primary concern, seeking and maintaining subsidies often seemed to require considerable time and effort.

    To further describe the realities the studies document for these families, this policy brief considers three issues in greater detail: why parents resorted to patchwork and informal care; parents’ experiences with subsidies; and the extent to which their arrangements met minimal standards of health, safety, and predictability. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Wilson, William Julius
    Reference Type: Book Chapter/Book
    Year: 1997

    Wilson, one of our foremost authorities on race and poverty, challenges decades of liberal and conservative pieties to look squarely at the devastating effects that joblessness has had on our urban ghettos. Marshaling a vast array of data and the personal stories of hundreds of men and women, Wilson persuasively argues that problems endemic to America's inner cities--from fatherless households to drugs and violent crime--stem directly from the disappearance of blue-collar jobs in the wake of a globalized economy. Wilson's achievement is to portray this crisis as one that affects all Americans, and to propose solutions whose benefits would be felt across our society. At a time when welfare is ending and our country's racial dialectic is more strained than ever, When Work Disappears is a sane, courageous, and desperately important work. (publisher abstract)

    Wilson, one of our foremost authorities on race and poverty, challenges decades of liberal and conservative pieties to look squarely at the devastating effects that joblessness has had on our urban ghettos. Marshaling a vast array of data and the personal stories of hundreds of men and women, Wilson persuasively argues that problems endemic to America's inner cities--from fatherless households to drugs and violent crime--stem directly from the disappearance of blue-collar jobs in the wake of a globalized economy. Wilson's achievement is to portray this crisis as one that affects all Americans, and to propose solutions whose benefits would be felt across our society. At a time when welfare is ending and our country's racial dialectic is more strained than ever, When Work Disappears is a sane, courageous, and desperately important work. (publisher abstract)

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