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Veterans of poverty's invisible war: Women who transcended welfare

Janet L Walters, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Grounded theory methodology (Strauss & Corbin, 1990, 1998) guided this exploration into the experiences of 18 women who survived poverty and overcame welfare dependency to become self-sufficient. The researched areas were: (a) ability to transcend welfare, (b) impact of prior welfare experiences on current lives, (c) meaning attached to the welfare experience, (d) symbols and rituals that marked the welfare experience, and (e) advice for those currently on welfare. This study employed purposeful and theoretical sampling techniques. The women's stories were gathered using in-depth interviews and focus groups. The research had roots in a preliminary study of 3 participants. ^ Systematic theoretical comparison (Strauss & Corbin, 1998) allowed the welfare experience to emerge as a warfare experience. A narrative and a timeline of transcending the invisible war of poverty and welfare were then generated. The final results were a substantive theory and a model for using education to transcend poverty and welfare. Three co-occurring dimensions of the welfare/warfare experience were found: (a) a pervasive period of detrimental stigmatization, (b) ongoing little daily battles involving the self, society, and others; and (c) survival in the trenches where daily goals and issues were addressed. Education emerged as the ticket out of poverty and off of welfare for most of the participants. The availability of both welfare subsidies and postsecondary educational opportunities enabled most women to simultaneously address their main goal of becoming independent of welfare and their daily goals of surviving and providing for their families. ^ This research found that the participants were marked by their welfare experiences in positive and negative ways. Many participants still feel the effects of their time on welfare despite many years of self-sufficiency. Some women kept various markers of this unique period while others did not. Although in agreement that welfare was and is a much needed social program, the participants were emphatic that individuals should continually strive for personal and financial independence. ^

Subject Area

Women's Studies|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies|Sociology, Public and Social Welfare

Recommended Citation

Walters, Janet L, "Veterans of poverty's invisible war: Women who transcended welfare" (2004). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3142105.