The Logic of Workfare: The Underclass and Work Policy

Lawrence M. Mead

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Much of today's entrenched poverty reflects the fact that poor adults seldom work consistently. The problem cannot be blamed predominantly on lack of jobs or other barriers to employment, as the chance to work seems widely available. More likely, the poor do not see work in menial jobs as fair, possible, or obligatory, though they want to work in principle. Government has evolved policies explicitly to raise work levels among the poor. Workfare programs, linked to welfare, show the most promise but still reach only a minority of employable recipients. Welfare reform should, above all, raise participation in these programs, as the share of clients involved largely governs their impact. Welfare should also cover more nonworking men to bring them under workfare. While work enforcement may seem punitive, the poor must become workers before they can stake larger claims to equality.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)156-169
    Number of pages14
    JournalThe Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jan 1989

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • General Social Sciences


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