The research question addressed by this dissertation is: What household (individual and family) characteristics and community-level factors contribute to continued material hardship and welfare dependence and inhibit economic self-sufficiency among low-income families? The individuals who participated in this study are clients of one of the 28 community action agencies in Minnesota. Community action agencies are nonprofit organizations that receive funding from the federal Community Services Block Grant to address poverty at the community level. Here the term economic self-sufficiency is used to define a state of being for individuals and families that meet two criteria. The first component is income source. To be self-sufficient, a household must be receiving more than half of their income from sources other than public assistance. The second component is income adequacy. To be economically self-sufficient a household also must not be experiencing material hardship, meaning that they are able to afford both food and housing expenses. To examine the relationship between economic self-sufficiency and various individual/family and county-level variables, multilevel regression modeling techniques were used. The key findings are that: demographic characteristics are generally related to self-sufficiency and the impact of these variables on self-sufficiency is reduced when cash and non-cash supports are controlled in the models; participants' access to and use of cash-and non-cash supports are strong predictors of self-sufficiency, even after controlling for the impact of county-level factors; and nonprofit density is the only county-level factor that is significantly related to individual participants' self-sufficiency, and the nature of this relationship is still unclear. The results of this dissertation suggest that public programs geared toward promoting self-sufficiency should focus on increasing access to non-cash resources and supports, especially in the areas of transportation and housing. Also, community action agencies should make it a goal to register their clients who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. These agencies should also address major barriers to self-sufficiency by assessing and responding to needs for transportation, housing, and child care. More research is needed on the cost effectiveness of various policy and program solutions to improve self-sufficiency.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. September 2011. Major:Sociology. Advisor:Professor Phyllis Moen. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 156 pages.
Individual, family, and community factors that predict economic self-sufficiency: An analysis of Minnesotans who receive community action agency services..
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