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Identity, Work, and Welfare Reform: A Qualitative Analysis (WP-02-01)

Dan A. Lewis, Irene Carvalho, and Bruce Nelson

This paper examines variations in response among individuals to welfare reform policies. Findings of a two-year qualitative study of welfare recipients are presented and a "person-centered policy analysis" is employed to understand how the participant's identity, or conception of self, has shaped the individual's response to welfare reform. Three types of identities emerge: Nurturers, Providers, and the Disaffected. While most study participants transitioned from welfare to work, independence from welfare was achieved in different ways according to one's self-identity. The paper concludes with suggestions for policy implementation targeted at the specific needs of each identity type.

Dan A. Lewis, School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University

Irene Carvalho, Program in Human Development and Social Policy, Northwestern University

Bruce Nelson, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

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