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Title page for ETD etd-07212008-215712

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Katz, Sheila Marie
Author's Email Address sheila.m.katz@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-07212008-215712
Title Pursuing a 'Reformed' Dream: CalWORKs Mothers in Higher Education After "Ending Welfare As We Know It"
Degree PhD
Department Sociology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Karen Campbell Committee Chair
Brooke Ackerly Committee Member
Daniel Cornfield Committee Member
Laura Carpenter Committee Member
  • gender
  • class
  • qualitative research
  • narratives
  • welfare
  • higher education
  • poverty
Date of Defense 2008-07-11
Availability unrestricted
Sweeping changes in 1996 to the national welfare system prioritized “work first” policies and restricted educational opportunities for mothers in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. The purpose of my dissertation is to understand why some mothers on welfare choose to pursue education as a route out of poverty, despite the fact that the opportunity for higher education decreased greatly under TANF. I conducted qualitative interviews and focus groups with 63 CalWORKs mothers who are enrolled in, or have recently completed, higher educational programs in the San Francisco Bay area, as well as a subset of this group who are involved with a specialized welfare and education advocacy organization. This research explores why single mothers on TANF pursue higher educational programs as their welfare-to-work activity, their narratives about their experiences in higher education and the welfare system, and how being involved in a grassroots advocacy organization affects women’s narratives. This research traces the pathways which mothers take to pursuing higher education while participating in the welfare system and their survival narratives and strategies for completing their degrees. Next, the meaning that higher education has for low-income mothers is explored and contrasted with expectations surrounding the ‘American Dream.’ Finally, this research examines the way that CalWORKs mothers engage in grassroots politics to challenge welfare policy and work towards a policy that better reflects the realities of their struggle.
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