Off to the (labor) market: Women, work, and welfare reform in 21st century American cities

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Title: Off to the (labor) market: Women, work, and welfare reform in 21st century American cities
Author: Haney, Timothy James, 1980-
Abstract: This research contributes to scholarly understanding of the labor market activity of women living in disadvantaged neighborhoods in large U.S. cities, the group most affected by 1996's welfare reform legislation. Welfare reform tightened eligibility for means-tested assistance programs, forcing many women to seek employment despite daunting personal obstacles. This research uncovers the extent to which this subset of women found steady employment in standard, living-wage jobs as well as the reasons why many have not. Unlike most work in this field, it incorporates measures of neighborhood disadvantage to further explore the spatial barriers to employment faced by this demographic group. I ask whether neighborhood context matters for employment outcomes, beyond individual characteristics and circumstances. Survey data, collected in 1998-1999 and 2001, come from the Project on Devolution and Urban Change, a longitudinal study of 3,916 women living in poor neighborhoods of four U.S. cities. I link these individual data to tract-level U.S. Census data, resulting in a longitudinal, multi-city, geographically-linked dataset, something that no previous published research uses, but an important tool for understanding how neighborhood context affects individual outcomes. The methodological approach involves a combination of regression techniques including pooled logistic regression, ordinary least squares regression, the use of change scores as predictors, the use of lagged endogenous variables, and the derivation of predicted probabilities using results from regression models. Results of this research indicate that neighborhood disadvantage is of only modest utility in explaining women's work trajectories. Although living in neighborhoods with more car ownership does improve employment outcomes, other neighborhood measures are less important. Some traditional markers of "disadvantage," such as the presence of female-headed (single parent) households, actually facilitate better employment outcomes, suggesting the need to reevaluate traditional notions of neighborhood advantage and disadvantage. Individual barriers to employment, particularly health, childcare and family responsibilities, and individual car ownership are consistently predictive of better employment outcomes. The results suggest the potential importance of spatially-targeted programs aimed at alleviating childcare, health and transportation barriers to employment.
Description: xvi, 307 p. A print copy of this thesis is available through the UO Libraries. Search the library catalog for the location and call number.
Date: 2009-06

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