"A man without a job is a dead man": The meaning of work and welfare in the lives of young men
K. A. Kost
Little is known about the use of welfare by young men; most research and debate have concentrated on the use of welfare by families headed by single women. The present research includes young men in the debate by examining the personal characteristics, backgrounds, and reasons for use of young men who participated in a General Assistance (GA) program. It explores the events that precipated their use, why they exited, and the barriers they faced in obtaining employment. Data are from qualitative interviews of 20 young men who resided in Madison, Wisconsin. A majority of respondents came from disadvantaged backgrounds, and more than half had been raised in a single-parent family. Fourteen of the 20 respondents had some involvement in the criminal justice system while they were adolescents; thirteen were fathers, only one of whom was married to the mother; eleven had been homeless, nine had a parent who had received AFDC; and six had neither a high school diploma nor a GED. Findings suggest that these young men use GA as a type of unemployment insurance between jobs. The average length of use for men in this sample was 7.5 months, and about half the men used GA more than once. This research makes clear the importance of assistance in improving the level of human capital and locating and retaining employment for poor men and suggests areas for future research.
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