Muskie School of Public Service

The Faltering Safety Net in a Reluctant Nation: Women’s Economic Security at Risk in America


While the U.S. has always been a reluctant welfare state, political opposition to the safety net is at an all-time high. Many safety net programs in the U.S. have either been downsized or eliminated or are being threatened with such. Women are especially at risk. The safety net is an essential source of support for them, especially women with children, poor and working class women, and women of color. In this paper we describe the U.S.'s long-standing ambivalence towards the safety net and its impact on women. We explore how a romanticized devotion to “traditional” work and family norms, complicated by class and race, influence and shape public attitudes, and continue to be inscribed in the design and delivery of safety net programs. We also review proposed changes and evaluate their potential to either help or undermine women's control over their lives and their ability to achieve economic security. [publisher's abstract]

Suggested Citation: Morris, L. A., & Deprez, L. S. (2014). The faltering safety net in a reluctant nation: Women's economic security at risk in America. Women's Studies International Forum, Special Issue. In press. doi: 10.1016/j.wsif.2013.11.002

Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Publish Date: 
February 1, 2014