Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Social Work


Social Work

First Advisor

Dr. Michele Staton-Tindall

Second Advisor

Dr. David Royse


Low-income women, including women who receive welfare, are some of the most misunderstood citizens in the U.S. Low-income women often live in extreme situations that are complicated by poverty and multiple issues related to human capital, social support, mental health, and substance use. These factors make low-income women unique in that they contribute not only to the women’s current situations, but to their potential for future self-sufficiency. The majority of previous studies have described these factors as barriers to self-sufficiency. This study explored these factors differently by examining the extent to which human capital is associated with mental health problems and substance use problems and whether those associations are moderated by social support among low-income women. By exploring human capital among low-income women, this study closes a gap in the literature. Previous literature has examined human capital as an outcome of life choices and circumstances. This study is unique in that human capital is conceptualized as a combination of strengths that are employed in unique ways and that help determine whether life outcomes among low-income women will be related. This study examined secondary data collected from 11,495 low-income women who participated in the University of Kentucky’s Targeted Assessment Program (TAP) between July 2005 and July 2011 and is informed by theoretical literature on human capital, social support, and relationships, as well as empirical literature on study factors related to problems experienced by low-income women (i.e., mental health problems, substance use problems, and social support). Study hypotheses were developed to examine the relationships between human capital and mental health and substance use among low-income women and whether social support moderates those relationships. Results indicate that while some human capital factors are indicative of fewer mental health and substance use problems, perceived social support was a significant indicator of each of the mental health and substance use factors. Perceived social support was not found to moderate relationships between predictor and outcome variables.

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