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Reading Response To, $2.00 a Day

Essay by   •  March 6, 2018  •  Book/Movie Report  •  1,366 Words (6 Pages)  •  785 Views

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Reading Response to, $2.00 A Day

$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America provides a compelling argument of poverty in America through a contextual approach that focuses on the experiences of low-income families. $2.00 A Day aimed to shed light on the 1.5 million American households that have practically no cash income. (Edin &Shaefer 14.) Edin and Shaefer also present three major areas that they think have created a new and growing social group for very poor families. They are, the affordable housing crisis, degradation of low-wage work since welfare reform and the virtual death of welfare or TANF. The book reveals that this number only seems to be going up since 1996, which was the same time the welfare reform bill was passed. Under the new bill, welfare was paired with strict working requirements. The goal of the policy was to decrease people’s dependence on government help. The welfare reform was successful in that it encouraged many people to join the workforce, but those who were unable to find work found themselves stuck without a safety net.

As a result of the Welfare reform, it changed the welfare system by replacing the old aid to families with dependent children welfare program (AFDC) with the new program called Temporary Assistance for needy families (TANF). For the first time, people that needed aid were required to work or start looking for work as a condition of receiving aid. Also with the new TANF, recipients only received five years of cash assistance and after that they were no longer eligible to receive the TANF benefits, it was temporary (Edin & Shaefer 8.) As part of the reform, was a cap child provision, which meant that you couldn’t receive additional cash benefits for having more children. It’s interesting to see how $2.00 A Day picked 1996 as a date of comparison; and how the changes in the welfare system affect changes in the economy. When the AFDC was in place, it was lifting more than 1 million families above the two dollars a day threshold. (Edin & Shaefer 26-27) When AFDC was replaced with TANF, it was like it was nonexistent and only a handful of people were getting help. There is a strong connection between the welfare reform and the economy because the new safety net is supposed to be based on work, but the kind of work these people can get doesn’t make for a very solid foundation.

In a lot of ways the welfare reform did do good. It increased aid to poor families during the 1990s, but most importantly with the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC gives a big wage supplement to low income-working families. Those families didn’t get much help before that. With the passage of the State Children and Health Insurance Program, it expanded health insurance for low-wage working families (Edin & Shaefer 28-30.) All of this has done a lot to improve the lives of poor families with children where the adults work. However, in $2.00 a Day, it really focuses on the families who were left behind. There is less aid for families at the very bottom and the aid that is available comes in the form of in-kind assistance not cash anymore. The book really argues that the transformation of the safety net in the 1990s largely took a step in the right direction. However, the welfare reform of 1996 has set the course for the current trends that are marked by decreasing levels of public assistance and increasing levels of poverty. (Edin & Shaefer 22-24.) Which leads into something that surprised me in the book. Chapter two was eye opening because it really drove home the idea of how bad poverty is and the dangerous work the low-income workers do. Although the chapter discussed the reality of variable schedules, few benefits and the high turnover rates, what really surprised me was how the authors explain that there is a level of stability that comes from working that severs as a short period of rest or relief from the stress of living in poverty. The one job that doesn’t pay that much, is the same one that provides that feeling of stability and temporary relief from stress caused by living in poverty. (Edin & Shaefer 60-62)

With many families facing these challenges, the authors introduce us to Jennifer Hernandez, a women who lives in Chicago with her two children. Jennifer and her family moved from one homeless shelter to another, all the while Jennifer was applying for jobs. Jennifer Hernandez’s story was by far the most powerful in convincing me about the social and housing concern. This was an example of labor law violations and a housing problem. This is a bottom of the barrel job with irregular hours and schedules that pays the minimum wage. If people like Jennifer had more stable employment,



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