Minimizing vulnerability: Selective interdependencies after welfare reform

Robin Rogers-Dillon, Lynne Haney

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    The issue of dependency permeates the American welfare discourse. Although most of the 50 low-income women we interviewed in our research echoed the distain of dependency found in the broader welfare discourse, they overwhelmingly described actively cultivating some forms of interdependence. For example, many of the women used state childcare vouchers to channel resources into their family networks while simultaneously adhering to an ethic of family care for children. They found this reliance on state resources and family to be desirable-and in fact a sign of "independence"-because it enhanced the economic security of their families while preserving the physical and emotional safety of their children. In contrast, the women tended to view reliance on men as undesirable-a form of "dependence"-because it did not enhance their perceptions of security. Thus while the women talked about becoming independent, in fact they cultivated selective interdependencies to minimize their economic, emotional and physical vulnerability. Independence for our respondents was not a lack of reliance on others but rather the ability to provide safety and security for themselves and their children. Our analysis may sheds some light on why welfare reform efforts aimed at increasing marriage rates have been less successful than those aimed at increasing employment rates.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)235-254
    Number of pages20
    JournalQualitative Sociology
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Aug 2005


    • Dependency
    • Gender
    • TANF
    • Welfare

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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