Abstract and Keywords
Reconceptualizing welfare-state regimes in terms of the interactions between markets, states, and gender and family relations, cross-national feminist scholarship reveals that the United States is relatively more "market-based" in its approach to both employment and care work than other wealthy democracies. Consequently female poverty, especially of lone mothers, is far higher in the United States compared to other wealthy democracies. Feminist scholarship also highlights the ways in which U.S. welfare programs are deeply gendered in terms of their underlying philosophies, recipient populations, and distribution of benefits. Feminist scholars have reconceptualized the origins and development of the U.S. welfare state in terms of a "two-track" system that has reinforced both gender and racial inequalities. Programs serving mostly men, such as veterans' benefits or unemployment insurance, provided relatively generous benefits and portrayed recipients as deserving. In contrast, programs serving mostly women, such as mothers' pensions, were relatively stingy, restrictive, and stigmatizing. At the beginning of the 20th century, reformers justified welfare for lone mothers in maternalist terms, emphasizing the value of full-time motherhood for child development. Support for maternalist welfare policies, although never strong, was further weakened as maternal employment grew and as more women of color and unwed mothers gained access to welfare. Since the late 1960s, efforts to reform the welfare system led to the expansion of federal welfare-to-work programs, which have largely tracked participants into low-wage jobs. Child-care subsidies also expanded in this period, but have remained relatively minimal and distributed in ways that reinforced class divisions among working families.
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