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Robert P. Stoker and Laura A. Wilson, When Work is Not Enough: State and Federal Policies to Support Needy Workers.

Robert P. Stoker and Laura A. Wilson, When Work is Not Enough: State and Federal Policies to Support Needy Workers. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2006. $24.00 papercover.

Social policies have historically been associated with employment issues and particularly with the promotion of work. However, social policy scholars have tended to focus on policies and programs that provide unconditional benefits and services, and which exemplify the altruistic or rights-based character of social welfare. Issues of work and employment have generally been left to economists. However, in recent years, as governments in different parts of the world have made greater use of social policies and programs to foster employment, the relationship between work and welfare has become a central issue in social policy debates.

In this informative book, Stoker and Wilson examine the relationship between welfare and work in the United States in considerable detail. They focus on eight programs that they believe have a particularly close association with employment policy. These include employer mandates such as the minimum wage, tax credits such as the EITC, food stamps, school meal programs, medical assistance, including Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), child care grants, rental assistance and the TANF program. Although these are primarily federal programs, they are administered collaboratively with states and often states have established their own programs. Together, they comprise what the authors describe as the "work support" system. There is, the authors point out, a close association between these programs and the welfare system, particularly the TANF program, but many of the components of the work support system are not limited to welfare recipients.

The book examines each program in some detail, assesses its generosity and effectiveness, and evaluates its impact on poverty. Its overall conclusion is that these programs contribute to poverty alleviation and, if taken together, have the potential to make a major impact. However, the authors reveal that the system is fragmented and that it cannot, in fact, be properly described as a system. They also find that the vast majority of those receiving benefits rely on a single benefit, even though they qualify for multiple benefits. A major challenge for the future is to insure that more low income workers receive all the benefits to which they are entitled.

Stoker and Wilson have produced an extremely useful book that should be widely consulted not only by academics, but by social workers and others who work with low income clients. The work support system is extremely complicated, but the authors have provided a wealth of useful information about these programs. The book is thoroughly documented and provides up-to-date references on a large number of studies that assess the impact of these programs. It makes a major contribution to the literature and will be a helpful resource for anyone interested in work support policies and programs.
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Title Annotation:Book Notes
Publication:Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2007
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