Even before the advent of welfare reform, studies of low income working and welfare dependent groups showed that low wage working women are worse off than those who combine welfare with other income sources and that most used a wide variety of livelihood strategies. This is especially the case in poor rural settings where work is scarce and additional obstacles to employment such as lack of transportation and childcare are endemic. Data from a selfadministered survey of users of human service agency programs in four counties in a distressed region of Appalachian Ohio in 1999, 2001, and 2005, provide a comprehensive picture of livelihood strategies, including labor force participation, informal and self-provisioning practices, and use of government and private transfers early and late in the welfare reform process. We compare working and nonworking human service clients at all three time periods and across communities with different levels of capacity to implement welfare to work policies to determine how labor force participants differ from other recipients and whether they are better or worse off. The data demonstrate the problems in making ends meet for all respondents, regardless of employment status and county capacity in all three time periods. While county differences are minimal, workers are better off than nonworkers and more so by the third survey year. They employ a wide variety of livelihood strategies beyond work for wages. Nevertheless, they remain poor and vulnerable to numerous hardships. 1Support

Document Type

Research Paper

Publication Date


Discussion Paper Number

DP 2007-06