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The contribution of social support to the material well-being of low-income families


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    School of Social Work, University of Michigan, 1015 E. Huron Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104.

School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago, 969 E. 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637 (


We hypothesize that the social support available from low-income networks serves primarily a coping function, rather than a leverage function. Social support and its relationship to material well-being is assessed in a sample of 632 former and current welfare recipients. Respondents report higher levels of perceived emotional, instrumental, and informational support than perceived financial support, and received financial aid is particularly uncommon. Multivariate findings demonstrate that perceived support is unrelated to employment quality, but it reduces the likelihood of living in poverty and is associated with three different measures of coping. These findings generally support the contention that informal aid is important for the everyday survival of low-income families, but is less able to assist with economic mobility.