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Reforming Women in the United States and Aotearoa/New Zealand: A Comparative Ethnography of Welfare Reform in Global Context

Catherine Kingfisher and Michael Goldsmith
American Anthropologist
Vol. 103, No. 3 (Sep., 2001), pp. 714-732
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/683609
Page Count: 19
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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.
Reforming Women in the United States and Aotearoa/New Zealand: A Comparative Ethnography of Welfare Reform in Global Context
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Abstract

Historically, the United States and Aotearoa/New Zealand symbolize opposite poles of an individualist-collectivist welfare state continuum. Until recently, Aotearoa/New Zealand was known as a "cradle-to-grave" welfare state, with "universal" employment and coverage in health and education. U.S. history, in contrast, is marked by an unabashed individualism and a residualist approach to welfare. Recent neoliberal reforms, however, have engendered a convergence between the two countries in the conceptualization and organization of assistance for poor single mothers. Most notable are the "workfare" provisions of legislative changes made in 1996 in the two countries, which work to reconstitute poor mothers as potential able-bodied workers. In this article we analyze welfare reform in the United States and Aotearoa/New Zealand, with particular reference to how poor single mothers respond to, comply and cope with, or resist neoliberal strategies. Analysis is based on participant-observation, interviews, and focus groups conducted between 1989 and 1999.

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