Chapter 2: Enforcing the Work Ethic

Chapter two of the book, Hays Flat Broke, details the welfare reforms work plan. Hays goes in detail to explain the force behind the reform, the process and the outcome of the work plan reform. The title of the chapter, Enforcing the Work Ethic, tells of the cultural assumption that underpins the welfare reform’s work plan. The work plan reforms are based on the belief that paying jobs ensures self-sufficiency and independence in individuals. In addition, the idea that most welfare recipients are lazy and poor because they do not work also geared the work reform. It is believed that getting the welfare mothers working will boost them from the poverty line to living normal lives.

The main sources of data in this chapter are interviews with welfare caseworkers, as well as welfare recipients. Some information in the chapter also comes from the Personal Responsibility Act and some other related state and federal regulations. Hays also sparingly cites works by other authors and scholars on the issue.

What are the book’s main findings? (Comprehension; ≈2 paragraphs)

This chapter finds that most of the welfare recipients are people who have worked at some point in their lives. Therefore, the welfare mothers are not lazy neither are they without job motivation. The assumption of the work plan reform logic, which getting paying jobs would work for the welfare recipients was mistaken.

Most recipients of the welfare benefits are people with low education, most of them lacking high school diploma and very few with college education. The low education renders these mothers low-income earners. The jobs that welfare mothers can secure cannot earn enough to fend for their children. Hays also found out that welfare train women for work through giving the pamphlets and engaging them for trainings. Lastly, the chapter highlights that the Work Plan reform is working for some women, yet it is failing to work for some as a result of the bureaucracies involved.

This chapter comes out strongly on the benefits and shortcomings of the work plan reform. The fact that the chapter does not give one-sided information is a stronghold. In addition, giving a way forward for the reform to yield better results is also a strong point of the information in this chapter.

Secondly, evaluating the way the work reform has been in operation, the fruits it has borne and the areas that improvement is needed, is another strong point of the information. The fact that Hays holds interview with both welfare caseworkers and welfare beneficiaries gives information with little or no bias.

However, even though, Hays presents the two sides of the case, her arguments seem to discredit the work plan reform. She does not appear convinced that the work plan reform is the solution to welfare mothers. She strongly portrays opinion, as opposed to evidence supported argument on the issue.

It is clear that the work plan reform is a policy that most welfare recipients have taken positively, trying to be independent, but it is also clear that most do not really know whether to work or do the children rearing work. The work plan reform is a good idea, but the implementers should take all factors into consideration before punishing welfare recipients for non-compliance.

Chapter 7: Cultures of Poverty

Chapter seven of the book Hays Flat Broke talks about the lives of welfare mothers, the reasons behind their lifestyles and the culture of poverty. In this chapter, the author argues that there are several categories of welfare women. She gives four classifications. These classifications are “Burger‐Barn Syndrome”, The “Candy‐Store Syndrome”, The “System‐Screwed‐Me Syndrome”, and The “Lorena‐Bobbit Syndrome”. She further explains each of these categories in reference to the “culture of poverty” thesis. According to Hays, the problems that the welfare mothers have, do not have a single solution, neither are they as a result of a single cause. She calls the chapter Cultures of Poverty, implying that there is not one definite way of living for the poor, but there are many related ways of living for the poor, or identified patterns for the poor.

The data that Hays uses in this chapter are either from personal direct interviews with the welfare mothers, citing from other authors or observation from the welfare activities. In giving explanation concerning the “Culture of poverty” thesis, Hays quotes other scholars and authors, referring to their findings and documentation. She also refers to other scholars throughout the chapter as she explains various behavioral portrayals by the interviewees. In each case or example that she gives, she refers to personal responses from the interviewees. This is evidence that she held interviewers with beneficiaries of welfare, who hold different opinions concerning the welfare reforms. She lastly concludes with opinion, recommendations and conclusion of the issues, addressed in the chapter.

This chapter presents several findings of the issue under research. To begin with, Hays find out that most of the welfare mothers have a common pattern of life from childhood to the time of interview. The pattern that Hays identifies is the fact that most of these mothers were born and brought up in weak families. Most of them grew up with step-fathers or both parents who were doing drugs. The weak family relations in the upbringing of these women were the main cause of their current situation. She also realized that with weak families, these women did not get adequate education or training. Inadequate education and training rendered the women unable to acquire well-paying jobs.

Another notable common thing about these mothers is that they got their first children at very tender ages. Most of the mothers under discussion in this chapter got their first children before the age of 21 years. On the same note, these mothers have children with different fathers and they were all unmarried at the time of interview. The fact that these women have children with multiple fathers tells the state of morality in their lives. Hay also found out that most of these women grew up in the most dangerous streets of Sunbelt city. The environment in which they grew up made them tough and aggressive in relation to the middle-class people.

This chapter gives information that is backed up by other authors. The fact that Hays refers to other scholars in support of her arguments and conclusions gives the information therein credit. Giving evidence from other authors, who have written on the topic before the study credits the information.

Another strength of this chapter is the fact that Hays presents evidence from her interview with the welfare mothers, which show a common pattern. The results from the interview concrete her arguments that there are several cultures of poverty not one, which are cyclic.

One shortcoming of this chapter is that Hays seems to have acquired a position before the research. The research seems to incline on proving her research thesis, not reality in the field. From her diction, even as she refers to works by other authors, she portrays some form of an inclination.

Secondly, information from the interviewees cannot be taken to be the entire truth. The fact that Hays does not give a data validation method that she used to validate the information, the information therein may be unreliable and prone to biases.

The author presents pretty good evidence for her argument but fails to convince the audience that her information is without bias. It is important to argue her point from validated data. Her argument that the culture of poverty assumes different dimensions is true but requires more support. The cultures of poverty, do not only affect the poor, but they affect the whole of America, and they are as a result of the economic inequalities culture of America. Therefore, the poverty cultures are Americans’ cultures.


Hays, S. (n.d). Flat Broke With Children: Women in the age of welfare reform. Oxford University Press