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Meeting Room



What is it like inside welfare offices, some of the most intimidating bureaucracies for families seeking assistance?

In this ethnographic analysis of the implementation of 1990s welfare reform, Watkins-Hayes investigates how the professional, racial, class, and community identities of welfare caseworkers and supervisors shaped the implementation of the new policy and other organizational dynamics. Watkins-Hayes finds that while welfare reform changed the job descriptions of front-line staff members (from eligibility-compliance claims processors to welfare-to-work caseworkers), these agencies were largely unable to undertake the steps necessary to change employees’ professional identities in ways that would offer the needed support to low-income families.

The book, The New Welfare Bureaucrats: Entanglements of Race, Class, and Policy Reform, was released in 2009 by the University of Chicago Press. In order to complete this project, Dr. Watkins-Hayes received support from The National Science Foundation (Grant No. 0512018), The Brookings Institution, and the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor.




C. Wright Mills Book Award

Society for the Study of Social Problems, 2009


Max Weber Book Award

Section on Organizations, Occupations, and Work

American Sociological Association, 2011.

Reviewed by: American Journal of Sociology, Contemporary Sociology, Choice Magazine

Ethnic and Racial Studies, Social Forces, Social Service Review.

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