Ethics Updates


Poverty and Welfare

Internet Resources on Poverty and Welfare

  • Edward N. Wolff, "Time for a Wealth Tax?" The Boston Review
  • Richard B. Freeman, "Solving the New Inequality,"The Boston Review, 1997. Includes Discussion and Response by Freeman.
  • John E. Roemer, "Equality and Responsibility," The Boston Review, 1996. Includes the following comments and response:
  • Author of When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor and The Declining Significance of Race, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, Harvard University. October 22, 1996.
  • The New War on Poverty, Boston Review, 1994.
  • Vivian Rothstein, "Is There a Right to be Homeless?" Boston Review. For ten years, the author has been working with homeless people. She thinks that current advocacy is taking a seriously wrong turn.
  • Neil Howe and Phillip Longman, "The Next New Deal," The Atlantic Monthly, April 1992.
    • "A call for a comprehensive reform of our trillion-dollar system of federal entitlements, which favors the rich over the poor, the old over the young, and consumption over savings, and in other ways makes no economic or social sense."
  • Gregg Easterbrook, "Housing: Examining a Media Myth," The Atlantic Monthly, 1983. "The 'new poor' and homeless discovered by the press a few months ago seem to have vanished; meanwhile, the real poor still need help. "
  • Focus. Now available on the Web, this journal concentrates on issues of poverty and welfare.
  • Welfare and Poverty page from Heritage. Many articles are provided in both HTML and Adobe Acrobat 3.0 PDF format.
  • Robert Rector and Patrick Fagan, "How Welfare Harms Kids." The Heritage Foundation. This site also contains additional articles from the Heritage Foundation on this topic, including:
    • 6/5/96 How Welfare Harms Kids by Robert Rector and Patrick Fagan. (Backgrounder #1084)
    • 3/18/96 Yet Another Sham Welfare Reform: Examining the NGA Plan by Robert Rector. (Backgrounder #1075)
    • 12/4/95 Why Congress Must Reform Welfare by Robert Rector. (Backgrounder #1063)
    • 10/24/95 Time To Enact Real Enterprise Zones by Dr. Stuart M. Butler. (Executive Memorandum #438)
    • 10/12/95 Behind the Census Bureau's Good News On Poverty by Patrick F. Fagan. (Executive Memorandum #431)
    • 10/1/95 Legal Disservices Corp.: There Are Better Ways To Provide Legal Aid to The Poor by Kenneth F. Boehm and Peter T. Flaherty. (Fall 1995 Policy Review)
    • 9/26/95 First Principles in the Public Arena by The Honorable John Engler, Governor of Michigan. (Lecture #543)
    • 9/6/95 Kicking America's Welfare Habit: Politics, Illegitimacy, and Personal Responsibility by The Honorable Pete Wilson, Governor of California. (Lecture #540; 4 pages)
    • 8/31/95 Combatting Illegitimacy and Counseling Teen Abstinence: A Key Component of Welfare Reform by Joseph J. Piccione and Robert A. Scholle. (Backgrounder #1051; 21 pages)
    • 8/31/95 The Forgotten Crisis: S.1120, Welfare Reform, and Illegitimacy by Robert Rector. (Committee Brief #18; 3 pages)
    • 8/4/95 Which Will Survive: The Welfare State or the Republican Revolution? by Senator John Ashcroft. (Lecture #539)
    • 7/27/95 Why Serious Welfare Reform Must Include Serious Adoption Reform by Patrick F. Fagan. (Backgrounder #1045; Published at 30 pages.)
    • 7/1/95 Happy Meals: When Lunch Subsidies Are Chopped, Kids Eat Better by Stephen Glass. (Summer 1995 Policy Review)
    • 3/23/95 Elderly Non-Citizens on Welfare Will Cost the American Taxpayer $328 Billion Over the Next Decade by Robert Rector and William Lauber. (F.Y.I. #54)
    • 5/11/93 The Clinton Administration's Sham Enterprise Zone Proposal by Stuart M. Butler. (Executive Memorandum #355)
    • 9/21/90 How "Poor" Are America's Poor? by Robert Rector, Kate Walsh O'Beirne, and Michael McLaughlin. (Backgrounder #791)
  • Project Vote Smart's Poverty and Welfare Issues Resource Page
  • Welfare Reform: An Analysis of the Issues, edited by Isabel V. Sawhill. The Urban Institute. An extensive collection of articles on welfare reform, including:
    • "A Block Grant Approach to Welfare Reform" by George Peterson
    • "State Response to Welfare Reform: A Race to the Bottom?" By Paul Peterson
    • "Rainy Day Funds: Contingency Funding for Welfare Block Grants" By Wayne Vroman
    • "Increasing the Employment and Earnings of Welfare Recipients" By Robert Lerman
    • "An Administrative Approach to Welfare Reform" By Lawrence M. Mead
    • "Child Care Block Grants and Welfare Reform" By Sandra Clark and Sharon Long
    • "Who is Affected by Time Limits?" By LaDonna Pavetti
    • "Assessing the Personal Responsibility Act" by Sheila Zedlewski and Isabel V. Sawhill
    • "Will Welfare Recipients Find Work When Welfare Ends?" By Sandra K. Danziger and Sheldon Danziger
    • "Teenage Childbearing: The Trends and Their Implications" By Freya L. Sonestein and Gregory Acs
    • "Do Welfare Benefits Promote Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing?" By Gregory Acs
    • "The Benefits on Increased Child Support Enforcement" By Elaine Sorensen
    • "The Food Stamp Program and the Safety Net" By James C. Ohls
    • "Reforming the Supplemental Security Income Program for Children" By Pamela Loprest
    • "When Should Immigrants Receive Public Benefits" by Michael Fix and Wendy Zimmerman
  • Effects of Welfare Bill on Children, the Elderly, and the Disabled (Washington: The Center On Budget and Policy Priorities, 1995.
  • The Welfare and Families Page of Moving Ideas, a virtual magazine of the Policy Action Network (PAN).
  • The New York Times Forum on Welfare Reform.
  • Steven A. Holmes, "Rich Are Getting Even Richer, Data Shows," The New York Times, June 20, 1996.
  • Leon Dash's "Rosa Lee's Story" appeared in the Washington Post, Sept. 18-25, 1994, and is now the basis for a book. The winner of both a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory Journalism and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, this series is a finely nuanced and unflinchingly honest yet compassionate portrait of a life of poverty. This is an example of a web-based presentation at its best--the Washington Post has done a great job on this.

Online Surveys

A Bibliographical Survey of Philosophical Literature on Poverty and Welfare

Biliographical essays are drawn from Lawrence M. Hinman, Contemporary Moral Issues

The Nature of Poverty

William Julius Wilson, The Truly Disadvantaged (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988); also see the symposium in Ethics, Vol. 101, No. 3 (April, 1991), pp. 560-609, devoted to this work, with articles by Jennifer Hochschild, "The Politics of the Estranged Poor," and Bernard Boxill, "Wilson on the Truly Disadvantaged," and the response by Wilson.

Poverty and Welfare

Among recent works on poverty and welfare in the United States, see Phoebe H. Cottingham and David T. Ellwood, eds., Welfare Policy for the 1990's (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989); William P. O'Hare, Real Life Poverty in America: Where the American Public Would Set the Poverty Line (Washington, DC: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 1990); Joel F. Handler and Yeheskel Hasenfield, The Moral Construction of Poverty: Welfare Reform in America (Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1991); Christopher Jencks and Paul E. Peterson, The Urban Underclass (Washington: DC: Brookings Institution, 1991); Marvin Olasky, The Tragedy of American Compassion (Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway, 1992) and, for a conservative review of how the issue of single mothers with dependent children was handled in the nineteenth century, also see Olasky's "History's Solutions; Problems of Single Mother and Child Poverty," National Review, Vol. 46, No. 2 (February 7, 1994), pp. 45 ff.; Jacqueline Jones, The Dispossessed: America's Underclasses from the Civil War to the Present (New York: Basic Books, 1992); for a more liberal view of these issues, see Mickey Kaus, The End of Equality (New York: Basic Books, 1992); Michael B. Katz, ed., The "Underclass" Debate (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993); R. Shep Melnick, Between the Lines: Interpreting Welfare Rights (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1994). Theresa Funiciello's Tyranny of Kindness: Dismantling the Welfare System to End Poverty in America (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1993) argues against the bureaucracy of the welfare system and in favor of a guaranteed minimal income. William J. Bennett and Peter Wehner, "Root Causes of Social Ills Lie in Welfare; Public Welfare Reform," Insight on the News, Vol. 10; No. 9 (February 28, 1994), pp. 32 f.; Robert Rector, "Try the Difference Values Can Make; How Public Welfare Assistance Has Contributed to the Demise of Social, Moral, and Family Values," Insight on the News, Vol. 9, No. 50 (December 13, 1993), pp. 22 ff.; for a good overview of the various & end as primarily conservative & end as participants in the welfare discussion and their ideas, see Tom Bethell, "They Had a Dream; the Challenge of Welfare Reform," National Review, Vol. 45; No. 16 (August 23, 1993), pp. 31 ff.

Narrative Accounts

For some extended narrative accounts of poverty, see Irene Glasser, More Than Bread: Ethnography of a Soup Kitchen (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1988); Elliot Liebow, Tell Them Who I Am: The Lives of Homeless Women (New York: Free Press, 1993); Valeria Polakow, Lives on the Edge: Single Mothers and Their Children in the Other America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993); Robert D. Bullard, ed., Confronting Environmental Racism: Voices from the Grassroots (Boston: South End Press, 1993). For some recent narrative accounts in newspapers, see Jeanie Russell Kasindorf, "Are They the Problem? Welfare Mothers; Interview," New York Magazine, Vol. 28; No. 6 (February 6, 1995), pp. 28 ff.; Barbara Vobejda, "Welfare an Afterthought, Teen Mothers Say," The Washington Post, (February 14, 1995), A Section; pp. A 01 ff.; Isabel Wilkerson, "An Intimate Look at Welfare: Women Who've Been There," The New York Times (February 17, 1995), Section A, pp. 1 ff.; and "Benefits and Doubts," The Washington Post (February 26, 1995), Magazine, pp. W12 ff. For a good overview of some of the social issues and the available data, see David Whitman, Dorian Friedman, Mike Tharp, and Kate Griffin, "Welfare: The Myth of Reform," U.S. News & World Report, Vol. 118, No. 2 (January 16, 1995), pp. 30 ff., and the accompanying editorial, Mortimer B. Zuckerman, "Fixing the Welfare Mess, "U.S. News & World Report, Vol. 118 ; No. 2 (January 16, 1995), pp. 68 ff. On the web, see Leon Dash's Pulitzer Prize winning, "Rosa Lee's Story," which appeared in the Washington Post, Sept. 18-25, 1994, and is now the basis for a book.

Women and Poverty

The issue of poverty has a special impact on women. For some narrative accounts, see the Lievow and Polakow volumes cited above. Among the excellent recent studies of this issue are Paul E. Zoph, Jr., American Women in Poverty (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1989); Lourdes Beneria and Shelley Feldman, eds., Unequal Burden: Economic Crises, Persistent Poverty, and Women's Work (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992); Pamela D. Couture, Blessed Are the Poor? Women's Poverty, Family Policy, and Practical Theology (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1991); Harrell R. Rodgers, Jr., Poor Women, Poor Families: Single Mothers and Their Children in the Other America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).

Race and Poverty

For contrasting views of Latinos and poverty in the United States, see Linda Chavez, Out of the Barrio: Toward New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation (New York: Basic Books, 1991) and Rebecca Morales and Frank Bonilla, eds., Latinos in a Changing U.S. Economy: Comparative Perspectives on Growing Inequality (Newbury Park: Sage, 1993)

Among the works on African-Americans and poverty (in addition to those already cited), see Maurence E. Lynn, Jr., and Michael G. H. McGeary, eds., Inner-City Poverty in the United States (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1990); Nicholas Lemann, The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America (New York: Knopf, 1991); Gary Orfield and Carol Ashkinaze, The Closing Door: Conservative Policy and Black Opportunity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991); Christopher Jencks, Rethinking Social Policy: Race, Poverty, and the Underclass (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992); Andrew Hacker, Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal (New York: Scribner's, 1992); James Jennings, ed., Race, Politics, and Economic Development: Community Perspectives (New York: Verso, 1992); Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton, American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993).

Distributive Justice

One of the central moral issues raised in this chapter has been the nature of distributive justice. Among the excellent anthologies in this area, see John Arthur and William Shaw, eds., Justice and Economic Distribution (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1978) and Virginia Held, ed., Property, Profits, and Economic Justice (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1980). For a collection of libertarian pieces on this issue, see Tibor Machan, ed., The Libertarian Alternative: Essays in Social and Political Philosophy (Chicago: Nelson-Hall Co., 1977).

For a strong statement of the liberal conception of justice, see John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge: Harvard, 1974) and, more recently, Political Liberalism (New York: Columbia, 1993); also see Brian Barry's Theories of Justice (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989). For a strongly contrasting libertarian conception of justice, see: Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia (New York: Basic Books, 1974); the work of F. A. Hayek, especially The Mirage of Social Justice, which is volume 2 of his Law, Legislation, and Liberty (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976); and Tibor Machan's Individuals and Their Rights (LaSalle, IL: Open Court, 1989). For an excellent attempt to reconcile these and other widely divergent views of justice, see James P. Sterba, How to Make People Just: A Practical Reconciliation of Alternative Concepts of Justice (Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Littlefield, 1988); for his most recent reply to Machan and others, see James P. Sterba, "From Liberty to Welfare," Ethics, 105, 1 (October, 1994), pp. 64-98. For an excellent short survey of distributive conceptions of justice, see Allen Buchanan, "Justice, Distributive," in Encyclopedia of Ethics, edited by Lawrence C. Becker and Charlotte B. Becker (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1992), Vol. I, pp. 655-661.

Summaries of Recent Literature on Poverty and Welfare

  • Steven A. Holmes, "Rich Are Getting Even Richer, Data Shows," The New York Times, June 20, 1996.

Suggestions for Discussion Questions and Term Paper Topics

Conditions of Welfare?
  • Receipt of welfare support obviously is dependent on the applicant's meeting certain pre-existing conditions, such as being unemployed. Ought welfare to include additional conditions that require the recipient to act in certain ways? Such conditions include a requirement that welfare recipients work, participate in job training, etc.