Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Entrepreneurs of Themselves: How Poor Women Enact Asset-Building Discourse

  • GUY FELDMAN (a1) and SANFORD F. SCHRAM (a2)

Abstract

Welfare policy discourse plays an important role in shaping how marginalised groups are identified and how poverty is addressed. Research on welfare policy discourse has mostly adopted a top-down perspective, examining how marginalised groups are constituted through interrelated discourses that are produced and enacted by powerful actors. However, little attention has been given to understanding how welfare policy discourse is used and enacted by marginalised groups themselves. This article focuses on asset-building discourse, a newly ascendant discourse which suggests that poverty can be alleviated through savings and building wealth. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 24 poor single mothers of colour participating in a matched savings programme, the article explores how poor women rely on asset-building discourse to make sense of their poverty challenges and how to overcome them. The study finds that the women express neoliberal ideals as they seek to portray themselves as committed to becoming self-sufficient, financially literate, disciplined savers and entrepreneurs. The findings indicate that the women feel empowered and see themselves as worthy citizens, irrespective of whether their economic situation has actually improved or whether they ultimately come to resist asset-building discourse's individualisation of their predicament.

Copyright

References

Hide All
Alvaredo, F., Chancel, L., Piketty, T., Saez, E. and Zucman, G. (2018), World Inequality Report, Paris: World Inequality Lab.
Askheim, O. P., Christensen, K., Fluge, S. and Guldvik, I. (2017), ‘User participation in the Norwegian welfare context: An analysis of policy discourses’, Journal of Social Policy, 46, 3, 583601.
Berndt, C. (2015), ‘Behavioural economics, experimentalism and the marketization of development’, Economy and Society, 44, 4, 567591.
Brown, W. (2015), Undoing the demos: Neoliberalism's stealth revolution, New York: Zone Books.
Charmaz, K. (2014), Constructing grounded theory, 2nd edition, SAGE.
Cummins, I. (2018), Poverty, inequality and social work: The impact of neoliberalism and austerity politics, Policy Press.
Edin, K. J. and Shaefer, H. L. (2015), $2.00 a day: Living on almost nothing in America, Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Elwood, S. and Lawson, V. (2018), ‘(Un)thinkable poverty politics’, in Lawson, V. and Elwood, S. (eds.), Relational Poverty Politics (pp. 124), Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.
Fairclough, N. (2013), Critical discourse analysis: The critical study of language, New York: Routledge.
Foucault, M. (2008), The birth of biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978—1979, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Fraser, N. and Gordon, L. (1994), ‘A genealogy of dependency: Tracing a keyword of the US welfare state,’ Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 19, 2, 309336.
Garrett, P. M. (2017), Welfare words: Critical social work & social policy, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Gowan, T. (2010), Hobos, hustlers, and backsliders: Homeless in San Francisco, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Grinstein-Weiss, M., Sherraden, M., Rohe, W. M., Gale, W., Schreiner, M. and Key, C. (2012), Long-term follow-up of Individual Development Accounts: evidence from the ADD experiment, Washington, DC and St. Louis, MO: Brookings Institution and Center for Social Development Washington University in St. Louis.
Hacking, I. (2004), ‘Between Michel Foucault and Erving Goffman: between discourse in the abstract and face-to-face interaction’, Economy and society, 33, 3, 277302.
Herbst, A. (2013), Welfare mom as warrior mom: Discourse in the 2003 single mothers' protest in Israel. Journal of Social Policy, 42, 1, 129145.
Houser, L., Schram, S., Soss, J. and Fording, R. (2015), ‘Babies as barriers: Welfare policy discourse in an era of neoliberalism,’ in Haymes, S., Vidal de Haymes, M. and Miller, R. (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Poverty in the United States (pp. 143160), New York: Routledge.
Lai, K. P. Y. (2018), ‘Financialisation of everyday life’, in Clark, G. L., Feldmann, M., Gertler, M., and Wokcik, D. (eds.), The New Oxford Handbook of Economic Geography (pp. 611–627), New York: Oxford University Press.
Langley, P. (2010), The everyday life of global finance: Saving and borrowing in Anglo-America, New York: Oxford University Press.
Lemke, T. (2001), ‘The birth of bio-politics’: Michel Foucault's lecture at the Collège de France on neo-liberal governmentality’, Economy and society, 30, 2, 190207.
Loibl, C., Jones, L. E., Haisley, E. and Loewenstein, G. (2016), Testing strategies to increase saving and retention in Individual Development Account programs. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2735625.
McCormack, K. (2005), ‘Stratified reproduction and poor women's resistance,’ Gender & Society, 19, 5, 660679.
Patton, M. Q. (2014), Qualitative evaluation and research methods, 4th edition, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Prabhakar, R. (2009), ‘The assets agenda and social policy’, Social Policy & Administration, 43, 1, 5469.
Prior, L., Hughes, D. and Peckham, S. (2012), ‘The discursive turn in policy analysis and the validation of policy stories,’ Journal of Social Policy, 41, 2, 271289
Sanders, C. K. (2014), ‘Savings for survivors: An Individual Development Account program for survivors of intimate-partner violence,’ Journal of Social Service Research, 40, 3, 297312.
Schneider, A. L. and Ingram, H. M. (1997), Policy design for democracy, Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.
Schram, S. F. (2000), After welfare: The culture of postindustrial social policy, New York: NYU Press.
Schram, S. F. (2015), The return of ordinary capitalism: Neoliberalism, precarity, occupy, New York: Oxford University Press.
Schreiner, M. and Sherraden, M. (2007), Can the poor save? Saving & asset building in Individual Development Accounts, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
Shapiro, T. M. (2017), Toxic inequality: How America's wealth gap destroys mobility, deepens the racial divide, and threatens our future, New York: Basic Books.
Sherraden, M. W. (1991), Assets and the poor: A new American welfare policy, Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.
Sherraden, M. S. and McBride, A. M. (2010), Striving to save: Creating policies for financial security of low-income families, Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Soffer, M., McDonald, K. E. and Blanck, P. (2010), ‘Poverty among adults with disabilities: Barriers to promoting asset accumulation in Individual Development Accounts,’ American Journal of Community Psychology, 46, 3–4, 376385.
Sullivan, L., Meschede, T., Dietrich, L. and Shapiro, T. (2015), The racial wealth gap, Waltham, MA: Institute for Assets & Social Policy, Brandeis University.
Suvarierol, S. (2015), ‘Creating citizen-workers through civic integration’, Journal of Social Policy, 44, 4, 707727.
Sykes, J., Križ, K., Edin, K. and Halpern-Meekin, S. (2015), ‘Dignity and dreams: What the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) means to low-income families’, American Sociological Review, 80, 2, 243267.
Taylor, T., Gross, C. L. and Turgeon, B. (2018), ‘Becoming a good welfare manager: Paternalistic oppressive othering and neoliberal boundary maintenance’, Sociological Focus, 51, 4, 335349.
Turgeon, B. (2018), ‘A critical discourse analysis of welfare-to-work program managers’ expectations and evaluations of their clients’ mothering,’ Critical Sociology, 44 1, 127140.
Wilson, H. and Huntington, A. (2006), ‘Deviant (m) others: The construction of teenage motherhood in contemporary discourse’, Journal of Social Policy, 35, 1, 5976.
Wood, L. A. and Kroger, R. O. (2000), Doing discourse analysis: Methods for studying action in talk and text, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Woolford, A. and Curran, A. (2013), ‘Community positions, neoliberal dispositions: Managing not-for-profit social services within the bureaucratic field,’ Critical Sociology, 39, 1, 4563.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Entrepreneurs of Themselves: How Poor Women Enact Asset-Building Discourse

  • GUY FELDMAN (a1) and SANFORD F. SCHRAM (a2)

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.