Large numbers of Americans claim public resources and participate in direct relationships with government through a diversity of welfare programs. Public debate over these programs often ignores their political significance, focusing instead on the economic and moral questions raised by welfare policy. By contrast, Unwanted Claims shows how welfare programs, such as social insurance and public assistance, affect the lives of ordinary citizens.
Welfare programs, depending on their designs, can draw citizens into a more inclusive and vibrant democracy or treat them in ways that reinforce their social and political marginality. Joe Soss investigates why citizens turn to the welfare programs, how they view the welfare system, and what they learn about themselves and government from their experiences.
Unwanted Claims thus offers an accessible and humanizing portrait of welfare participation that challenges conventional wisdom and raises important questions about poverty, welfare, and democracy in America. In making extensive use of clients' own descriptions of their experiences, beliefs, and actions, this work of political sociology will prove illuminating to scholars, students, policy practitioners, and the general public.