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Civil Disorder, Relief Mobilization, and AFDC Caseloads: A Reexamination of the Piven and Cloward Thesis

Alexander Hicks and Duane H. Swank
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 27, No. 4 (Nov., 1983), pp. 695-716
DOI: 10.2307/2110889
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2110889
Page Count: 22
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Civil Disorder, Relief Mobilization, and AFDC Caseloads: A Reexamination of the Piven and Cloward Thesis
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Abstract

In this paper we argue that previous attempts to test Piven and Cloward's explanation of post-World War II increases in Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) caseloads have been incomplete at best. Using short-term time-series analyses of national-level data for 1948 to 1977, we find mixed support for Piven and Cloward's explanation of AFDC caseload growth. Piven and Cloward's hypotheses that Community Action Agency legal aid and counseling activities, black rioting, and additional disruptions involving street crime generated large AFDC roll increases receive clear support. However, we find evidence for a positive effect of unemployment on AFDC caseload increases, Piven and Cloward's denial of "need" effects to the contrary. We also find evidence indicating that AFDC rolls may have expanded because of 1965 amendments to the Social Security Act. In conclusion, we discuss some implications of our findings for theory and research concerning welfare policy determination and policy consequences of direct action by the poor.

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