The University of Wisconsin Press

Public Policy / Sociology / Politics / Economics


Welfare in America
How Social Science Fails the Poor
William M. Epstein

A scathing attack on the social scientists, policy makers, and politicians responsible for programs for the poor in America

William M. Epstein charges that most current social welfare programs are not held to credible standards in their design or their results. Rather than spending less on such research and programs, however, Epstein suggests we should spend much more, and do the job right.

The American public and policymakers need to rely on social science research for objective, credible information when trying to solve problems of employment, affordable housing, effective health care, and family integrity. But, Epstein contends, politicians treat welfare issues as ideological battlegrounds; they demand immediate results from questionable data and implement policies long before social researchers can complete their analyses. Social scientists often play into the political agenda, supporting poorly conceived programs and doing little to test and revise them. Analyzing Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and the recent welfare reform act, Food Stamps, Medicaid, job training, social services, and other programs, Epstein systematically challenges the conservative's vain hope that neglect is therapeutic for the poor, as well as the liberal's conceit that a little bit of assistance is sufficient.

"Epstein has 'deconstructed' the social research of the past three decades, measured it against the empirical standards professed by the social scientific community, and found it essentially shabby."—David Stoesz, School of Social Work, Virginia Commonwealth University

"An ambitious book that lives up to its aims and claims. Welfare in America   is an extraordinary synthesis of the welfare literature, and a scintillating survey of social science highs and lows in such areas as poverty, crime, health and welfare. The work offers hope that the near total separation of the practice of social welfare and the theory of social research can finally be bridged."—Irving Louis Horowitz, Hannah Arendt Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Political Science, Rutgers University

William M. Epstein is professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the author of Dilemma of American Social Welfare and Illusion of Psychotherapy. He was formerly a research director at the U.S. Department of Health , Education, and Welfare and a policy analyst at the U.S. Department of Justice.

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December 1997
LC: 97-014661 HV
256 pp.   6 x 9

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Paper $19.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-15594-0
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