Semester of Graduation

Spring 2020


Master of Social Work (MSW)


School of Social Work

Document Type



The discussion regarding government benefits and reliance on welfare benefits is one that takes place in arenas of policymaking and academia alike. These discussions often focus on poverty that exists in densely populated metropolitan areas, resulting in a scarcity of research regarding unique characteristics of rural poverty. Eighty-four rural Louisiana women participated in a longitudinal study of the impacts of welfare reform in their lives. Twenty years later, two (N = 2) rural Louisiana women, each former welfare recipients, participated in an in-depth qualitative case study examining their transition away from welfare programs. Data show that neither woman was able to function independently of welfare through employment following the welfare-to-work transition that took place as a consequence of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. The integrated data from their four interviews each, including the retrospective interview they engaged in during summer 2019, revealed biological, psychological, and social factors that negatively impacted their transition away from public assistance. These findings suggest that policymakers should take into account the unique challenges inherent to rural communities during the development of welfare policy. The study also revealed a lack of evidence based practices during policy implementation, particularly an absence of working alliance between government agencies and participants, which proved disadvantageous to participants as they navigated the welfare reform transition.



Committee Chair

Monroe, Pamela A.