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"I work hard for no money": The Work Demands of Single Mothers Managing Multiple State-Provided Benefits

Sara J. Cumming, Martin Cooke

Abstract


The role of social assistance in structuring the lives.of women has been well-documented.
However, it is only one of a number of programs used by low-income single mothers,
and there has been little attention paid to how these programs interact to form a web of
rules and obligations for recipients. Through analysis of in-depth interviews with a small
sample of single mothers and caseworkers, this paper e~ploresth e effects of each policy on
women's day-to-day lives. We demonstrate the important amount of paid and unpaid work
already done by these women, but argue that receiving multiple benefits requires additional
work as conditions of individual programs, as well as work to coodinate various program
requirements and to avoid gaps in benefit coverage. Future research should consider both
the formal and informal program requirements, as well as how the requirements of various
program may be contradictory.
Keywords: poverty, single mothers, social assistance, welfare reform
Le r61e de l'assistance sociale dans la vie des femmes est bien document& Pourtant,
l'assistance sociale n'est qu'un des programmes auxquels les m&res inonoparentales
recourent, et peu d'attention a et6 portbe 5 l'interaction entre les diffkrents programmes,
tels l'assistance sociale, les logements subventionn6s, les subventions
pour frais de garde d'enfants et les pr&ts etudiants, bien qu'ils cr6ent un ensemble
de r&gles et d'obligations pour leurs benkficiaires. Grgce 5 des entrevues de fond
conduites aupr&s d'un petit Cchantillon de m&res monoparentales, nous analyserons les effets de ces obligations sur leur vie quotidienne. Nous y dCmontrerons l'imnportante
charge de travail, tant r6munerC que non remunerk, que cela represente
pour ces feinmes et nous soumettrons qu'une autre forme de travail doit aussi Ctre
assumke par celles-ci afin de ben6ficier de ces programmes. Aussi, les feinmes
doivent coordonner les besoins de ces divers programmes. Des recherches futures
devraient considkrer les exigences, tant formelles qu'informelles, rattachkes 5 ces
programmes et ainsi faire ressortir comment elles peuvent Ctre contradictoires.
Mots clis: Assistance sociale, pauvretf', rkforme de l'assistance sociale

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