Jezebel at the welfare office: How racialized stereotypes of poor women's reproductive decisions and relationships shape policy implementation

J Poverty. 2014 Jan 1;18(2):109-129. doi: 10.1080/10875549.2013.833159.


Current welfare scholarship lacks an analysis of how caseworkers discuss sexuality-related issues with clients. Seventy-two of 232 transcribed welfare interviews in three states included discussion of reproductive decisions and relationships. Overall, caseworkers' language reflected negative myths regarding African American women's sexuality and motherhood. By virtue of their status as welfare recipients, regardless of their individual races, clients were placed into racialized myths through workers' talk. This analysis demonstrates that though not present in every welfare interview and often veiled in bureaucratic language, negative ideas about poor women's sexuality persist in welfare policy and are deeply embedded in its day-to-day implementation.

Keywords: gender; qualitative research; race; sexuality; welfare reform.