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Claiming Citizenship: The Political Dimension of Welfare Fraud


  • Shiri Regev-Messalem

    Assistant Professor, Director of the Legal Cclinics, Corresponding author
    1. Bar Ilan University Faculty of Law
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    • He thanks the E. David Fischman Fund, the Taube Center for Jewish Studies, and the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University for their support, which allowed the author to conduct this research. The author thanks Deborah Hensler, Paula England, Lawrence Marshall, Tamar Kricheli-Katz, Neta Ziv, and Daphna Hacker for their useful comments and is also grateful for the interviewees who were willing to share their views with me.


This article exposes the political dimension of welfare fraud by investigating—in the context of the Israeli welfare reform of 2003—how forty-nine Israeli women who live on welfare justify welfare fraud. I find that women's justifications cannot be fully explained by traditional noncompliance theories that view welfare fraud as an individual, private, criminal activity that solely reflects on the fraudster's moral character or desperate need. Instead, women's justifications for welfare fraud are better understood as a sociopolitical struggle for inclusion and deservedness—as a political act that reflects an alternative concept of citizenship with respect to women's unpaid care work.

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