Laboring to Learn: Women's Literacy and Poverty in the Post-Welfare Era

Laboring to Learn: Women's Literacy and Poverty in the Post-Welfare Era

(University of Illinois Press, 2008)
By Lorna Rivera

The American adult education system has become an alternative for school dropouts, with some state welfare policies requiring teen mothers and women without high school diplomas to participate in adult education programs to receive aid. Very little has been published about women’s experiences in these mandatory programs and whether the programs reproduce the conditions that forced women to drop out in the first place. Lorna Rivera bridges the gap with this important study, the product of ten years’ active ethnographic research with formerly homeless women who participated in adult literacy education classes before and after welfare reform. Analyzing the web of ideological contradictions regarding “work first” welfare reform policies, Rivera argues that poverty is produced and reproduced when women with low literacy skills are pushed into welfare-to-work programs and denied education.