Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

Reforming the Land of Opportunity: Reframing Citizenship for the Deserving Poor in 1996 U.S. Welfare Policy Reform Public Deposited

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https://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/v405sh80t

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  • In his July 31, 1996 remarks on welfare reform, President Clinton signaled his intent to sign into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), bipartisan legislation aimed at reforming federal welfare policy. During the press conference, Clinton framed welfare as necessary but ultimately temporary relief, stating its reform would only succeed with shared responsibility between state governments, the private sector, and welfare recipients. This vision of shared responsibility was significant in attempting to unify Americans’ orientation toward welfare as a shared social problem of aiding the deserving poor. The president’s stated motivation in pursuit of reforming welfare and signing of the bill was to aid the poor in transitioning from welfare to work while safeguarding their children from neglect. However, application of cluster-agon analysis to his remarks reveals another layer of motive, not only idealizing the nuclear family as normative, as other researchers have shown, but also reinforcing work as the legitimating factor that validates American citizenship. I argue that in positioning work as central to American citizenship and necessary for the support of children, Clinton invokes an image of legal immigrants and their children as proto-citizens, more deserving than native born Americans who fail to meet expectations of labor participation.
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