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Missing the Mark: Welfare Reform and Rural Poverty
The Journal of Gender, Race & Justice (2007)
  • Lisa R Pruitt, University of California, Davis

This article, written for a symposium assessing the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) a decade after its passage, considers welfare reform’s impact in rural America. Professor Pruitt asserts that federal welfare reform legislation reflects an urban political agenda that failed to consider rural realities. Based on her analysis of two particular populations—those living in persistent poverty and those in female-headed households—she concludes that PRWORA has exacerbated rural poverty. While PRWORA’s focus was on work and time limits on assistance, it gave individual states latitude to design and implement programs tailored to their economic and demographic circumstances. Pruitt illustrates how some states with significant rural populations used this latitude to institute programs that respond to the structural barriers endemic to rural locales: greater transportation challenges in light of spatial isolation from jobs, services, and training opportunities; limited child care choices; and deficits in human capital. But she also points out how states’ responses to these challenges have been piecemeal, and their ameliorative impact limited, in the absence of rural economic development. Pruitt analyzes the contradiction between the decline in the number of rural families receiving welfare (a rate commensurate with that of urban families in the PRWORA era), and the rise in rural poverty since 2002.

  • welfare,
  • welfare reform,
  • rural poverty,
  • spatial isolation,
  • geography,
  • community,
  • lack of anonymity,
  • labor market,
  • transportation,
  • child care
Publication Date
Spring 2007
Citation Information
Lisa R Pruitt. "Missing the Mark: Welfare Reform and Rural Poverty" The Journal of Gender, Race & Justice Vol. 10 Iss. 3 (2007)
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