The Health Effects of Work-based Welfare


  • Eugenie Hildebrandt

    Corresponding author
    1. Eugenie Hildebrandt, RN, PhD, APRN, Eta Nu, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
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  • This study was funded by the Center for Urban Initiatives and Research, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Dr. Hildebrandt, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 413 Cunningham Hall, Milwaukee, WI 53201. E-mail:


Purpose: To identify effects of work-based welfare on the health and well-being of participants. Data included the needs and experiences of people in the work-based welfare program.

Design: The population for this qualitative study was adults enrolled in the work-based welfare program in a large urban community in the U.S. Midwest. The sample was 34 women who were enrolled in this program. The interview settings were an inner-city adult education center, an inner-city church, a subsidized housing development, or homes of participants. Data were collected between July 1999 and June 2000.

Methods: Snowball sampling was used to identify participants. Instruments used for this report were a semi-structured interview guide, a demographic data sheet, and the General Wellbeing Schedule.

Findings: The human costs to people enrolled in work-based welfare included anxiety and depression as well as negative effects on health and well-being. Participants also reported positive effects on well-being and empowerment.

Conclusions: The findings indicate the complex interplay of the socioeconomic environment, mental and physical health, and the well-being of families. The women's perceptions of the effects that welfare policy has had on them and their families indicate the need for a broader response to poverty than the largely economic response of work-based welfare.