With 22% of American children living in poverty, government assistance to alleviate poverty is an issue affecting most students, their classmates or their communities. The introduction to the volume begins with statistical evidence that many formerly self-sufficient individuals have suffered a reversal of circumstances due to the recent economic downturn, drawing comparisons with the beginnings of public assistance programs in the Great Depression now collectively known as welfare. One of the titles in Greenhaven Press Introducing Issues with Opposing Viewpoints series, Welfare provides "an array of opinions" to help students understand the controversial issue of how to help families who are struggling. The volume also examines related issues like the role of private charities, the minimum wage and the government's role in the promotion of marriage.
The 18 essays, ranging from four to seven pages in length, are grouped according to three central questions related to government assistance. Does welfare serve needy groups fairly? Has welfare reform been successful? Are there good alternatives to welfare? Welfare, which often speaks in terms of low-wage workers rather than the unemployed, provides analysis on the efficacy of Clinton-era welfare reform, offering plenty of anecdotes touching upon how drugs, violence, single motherhood, the expense of childcare, public housing and even illiteracy can contribute to a cycle of dependence. One chapter deals with the failure of welfare to address generational poverty, which the author suggests directly contributed to the stranding of thousands of people in a flooded New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina. The book delves into the ambiguities of providing support to immigrants and single parents and describes how individuals often lack incentive to leave welfare and medical assistance programs that help families to achieve a higher standard of living than would be possible with a minimum wage income without health insurance. The essays conclude by providing international comparisons, with explicit examples of generous family assistance programs in France and Great Britain.
The text scaffolds the reading experience to make the nuances of the topic accessible to secondary students reading below grade level, as well as providing text-to-self questions for consideration while reading. Each viewpoint provides pull-out text boxes with statistics on poverty and assistance. Charts and graphs describe populations in need and varieties of benefits. Editorial cartoons and illustrations extend meaning.
The viewpoint essays are supplemented with five pages of statistical information about Americans seeking help, detailing typical expenditures required for a family to meet basic needs. A comprehensive index, a two-page glossary of specialized vocabulary, a list of agencies to contact and recommendations for further reading complete the volume.
There are suggestions following each essay on how to evaluate each author's arguments, which are ideal tools to model the process of reading informational text critically. Unfortunately, none of the authors address school free-and-reduced lunch programs or Title I funding for public schools, which are the forms of public assistance that might be most familiar to students. Recommended for secondary schools to support economics, government and social issues research assignments.