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Sanctions: mixed messages from the USA

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In 1996 the United States embarked on a radical welfare-to-work experiment. A key element of this was the use of sanctions against welfare recipients who did not participate in work-related activities, yet the actual use of enforcement has been relatively under-reported. This article charts how sanctions have been implemented. It shows that there has not been a one-dimensional approach, with significant differences in the rules applied by different states. Furthermore, increased discretion at caseworker level has serious potential consequences for individual families. The article also notes that the overall drop in welfare rolls since the mid-1990s means that an increasing proportion of remaining recipients are those with significant obstacles to work, which raises concerns about the future use of sanctions. These issues are examined with an eye on possible lessons for the UK as the government extends the use of sanctions.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2004

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  • Benefits (now known as The Journal of Poverty and Social Justice)

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    Benefits (to be known as The Journal of Poverty and Social Justice from 2010) provides a unique blend of high-quality research, policy and practice from leading authors in the field related to all aspects of poverty and social exclusion. The journal has changed its name to reflect its wider scope and has growing international coverage.

    Content spans a broad spectrum of poverty-related topics including social security, employment and unemployment, regeneration, housing, health, education and criminal justice, as well as issues of ethnicity, gender, disability and other inequalities as they relate to social justice.

    With succinct articles ideal for teaching purposes and students, The Journal of Poverty and Social Justice combines an original and exciting mix of:

    • scholarly, peer-reviewed articles
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    • a comprehensive round-up of key publications

    It will be an essential resource for academics, policymakers and practitioners working in these areas.

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