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To Work or Not to Work: Is That the Right Question?


  • Stephanie Seguino
  • Sandra Butler


This paper applies thematic analysis to survey data obtained from a sample of AFDC recipients to investigate the complexities of single-parent decision-making in low-income households. A basic needs budget is developed to determine the adequacy of women's wages to provide for children's minimal material needs. In surveys, parents indicate their primary goal is the well-being of the children, determined by the adequacy of several types of resources, which we categorize into four groups: 1) material resources, 2) caring resources, 3) community resources, and 4) the macro-level environment. Using this framework, we develop a schematic model of single-parent decision-making, incorporating the assumption that children's level of need and well-being are determined not only by the cost and availability of material resources but also by psychological factors such as gender conflicts, neighborhood safety, as well as parents' time and social networks that provide caring labor.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephanie Seguino & Sandra Butler, 1998. "To Work or Not to Work: Is That the Right Question?," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 56(2), pages 190-219.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:rsocec:v:56:y:1998:i:2:p:190-219 DOI: 10.1080/00346769800000019

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    single parents; basic needs; AFDC; gender;


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