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Why is it so hard?

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Title:
Why is it so hard? poverty, self-sufficiency, and upward mobility
Creator:
Blevins, Terri B. ( author )
Place of Publication:
Denver, Colo.
Publisher:
University of Colorado Denver
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English
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1 electronic file (90 pages). : ;

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Degree:
Doctorate ( Doctor of Education)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
Educational Leadership and Equity Program, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Educational Leadership and Equity
Committee Chair:
Zion, Shelley
Committee Members:
Davis, Alan
Lay, Carol

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Subjects / Keywords:
Social mobility ( lcsh )
Wealth ( lcsh )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Review:
This exploratory study examined the self-sufficiency and upward mobility prospects of recently out-of-work women who had completed a job training program. Using a case study methodology, I investigated the challenges and barriers to obtaining steady employment that leads to self-sufficiency for three participants. The data were analyzed to identify the resources, social safety nets and opportunities of the participants, as well as the obstacles and challenges to becoming self-sufficient. The participants in this study were experiencing significant obstacles to becoming self-sufficient, including low wage offerings, barriers to affordable child care, and accessible public transportation. The participants found it difficult to provide for more than minimal basic needs or to save money for a rainy day; financial disasters of even small proportions could quickly spin them back into poverty. These findings may provide insight into creating more effective policies and social supports for families who are trying to climb out of poverty. Often, the jobs available to these families pay minimum wage and not enough to adequately support families. Child care subsidies may be available, but centers should offer longer hours or weekend care. Public transportation is not ideal; those without cars need longer to get to work because of bus schedules and routes. Social safety nets provided by federal, state and local governments are often not enough, or not structured in a way that families can maximize earnings.
Thesis:
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Colorado Denver. Educational leadership and equity
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographic references.
System Details:
System requirements.
General Note:
School of Education and Human Development
Statement of Responsibility:
by Terri B. Blevins.

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University of Colorado Denver
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|Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
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900221660 ( OCLC )
ocn900221660

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Full Text
WHY IS IT SO HARD?
POVERTY, SELF-SUFFICIENCY, AND UPWARD MOBILITY
by
TERRI B. BLEVINS
B.A. University of Oklahoma, 1977
M. A. University of Iowa1994
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado Denver in partial fulfillment
Of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Education
Educational Leadership and Equity Program
2014


This thesis for the Doctor of Education degree by
Terri B. Blevins
Has been approved for the
Educational Leadership and Equity Program
By
Shelley Zion, Chair
Alan Davis, Advisor
Carol Lay
May 2,2014


Blevins, Terri (EdD, Educational Leadership and Equity)
Why Is It So Hard? Poverty, Self-sufficiency, and Upward Mobility
Thesis directed by Shelley Zion, Executive Director
ABSTRACT
This exploratory study examined the self-sufficiency and upward mobility
prospects of recently out-of-work women who had completed a job training program.
Using a case study methodology, I investigated the challenges and barriers to obtaining
steady employment that leads to self-sufficiency for three participants. The data were
analyzed to identify the resources, social safety nets and opportunities of the participants,
as well as the obstacles and challenges to becoming self-sufficient. The participants in
this study were experiencing significant obstacles to becoming self-sufficient, including
low wage offerings, barriers to affordable child care, and accessible public transportation.
The participants found it difficult to provide for more than minimal basic needs or to save
money for a rainy day; financial disasters of even small proportions could quickly spin
them back into poverty. These findings may provide insight into creating more effective
policies and social supports for families who are trying to climb out of poverty. Often,
the jobs available to these families pay minimum wage and not enough to adequately
support families. Child care subsidies may be available, but centers should offer longer
hours or weekend care. Public transportation is not ideal; those without cars need longer
to get to work because of bus schedules and routes. Social safety nets provided by
federalstate and local governments are often not enoughor not structured in a way that
families can maximize earnings.
The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication.
Approved: Shelley Zion
iii


WHY IS IT SO HARD?
POVERTY, SELF-SUFFICIENCY, AND UPWARD MOBILITY
SYNOPSIS
Fifty years ago, President Johnson declared a war on poverty. Strategies were
developed and implemented to provide public assistance to those in need. A number of
initiatives including food stamps, Medicaid, and Head Start programs were developed
and still exist to provide support and alleviate some of the symptoms of poverty. The
American economy has undergone some significant changes as well. Wages have not
risen, except for those at the very top. Consumer debt has risen and is at an all time high.
In addition to changes in the economyfamily structures have changed. There has been a
significant increase in families headed by single women. Family homelessness is up.
One third of those who live in poverty are children.
Poverty is often defined by strictly economic measures; howeverthis is not a true
picture of poverty. Federal guidelines have established a poverty threshold for families; a
family of four that makes less than $23,000 is considered poor. Self-sufficiency refers to
the amount of money it takes to provide for the familys basic needs: housing
transportation, food, child care, utilities, and personal care expenses. The self-sufficiency
level for a family of four is closer to $45,000, well above the poverty threshold
established by the government.
There are other factors as well that contribute to poverty besides material
measures. Lack of internet might mean not being able to apply for a job if the application
IV


is strictly online. Lack of a phone might mean a prospective employer cannot contact the
applicant. Lack of social connections could mean that an applicant doesnt learn about
available jobs or cant get a job recommendation.
Most people who live in poverty do so for a short time. A smaller number may
experience chronic poverty, which lasts longer than five years (Hulme and Shepherd,
2003). Those who do experience chronic poverty are likely to remain poor (Corcoran,
1995; Yaqub2000). And those who remain poor are more likely to raise children that
grow up to live in poverty.
Those who live in poorer neighborhoods have fewer resources, as well. Poorer
neighborhoods are more likely to experience higher crime rates and poorer schools,
leaving children without the necessary skills or education to rise above poverty (Haney,
2007). Upward mobility is defined as the movement of an individual or a social group to
a position or higher status, and those who live in poverty are less likely to find ways of
achieving self-sufficiency or upward mobility.
This study was a qualitative study that examined the lives of women who had
recently completed a job training program at Mi Casa Opportunity Center in Denver,
Colorado. The three women were either looking for work or had recently obtained work.
Mi Casa provides job training and social support to women who are out-of-work. The
Center provides job skills, opportunities to network with local industry, and on-going job
coaching to participants.
Three women, all single mothers, volunteered for my study, sharing their story
around family, career, and community. I looked at challenges, opportunities, barriers,


and resources for each of these women in finding and keeping a job as they also cared for
their family.
To guide my thinkingI looked at Pierre Bourdieus theory of economic capital
(financial resources), social capital (connections to other people), and cultural capital
(ideas and values passed down from their families or from schools). I wanted to
understand how and when the participants were able to access not just economic capital,
but social and cultural capital to obtain what they needed for their families. I also
considered Bourdieu5s habitus, which he uses to describe the dispositions, or peopled
natural ways of thinking and behaving (Cockerham & Hinote, 2009).
I interviewed each woman over the course of four months, asking questions about
early family life, education, dreams, early job history, and challenges and opportunities in
the current job market. Each interview was transcribed and written up as a case study.
While each woman had her own unique story, some themes began to emerge
during the interviews. The women learned about available social supports through
friends and family members. All of them expressed a desire to get off of welfare.
Each woman had a child or children that they loved and wanted to care for, but
child care could be a problem. If the woman had the CCCAP suDsidythen rules and
restrictions would limit the opportunities for enough work hours. Jobs that were available
to them were more likely to be in big box stores with shift work requirements; shifts in
the evening or on weekends were not possible unless they had some family support, as
child care centers are not open during these hours.
vi


Transportation was another issue; not having a car meant that the woman had to
use the public transit system. This could add significant travel time to get a child to
daycare or school and then get to the work site. Also, travel was dependent on bus
schedules and routes; often the bus stop did not take them to the doorstep of school,
daycare, or work, which meant additional walking time. Having a car, though, meant
paying for upkeep and maintenance, a cost that could be prohibitive on a minimum wage
job. Housing was often cramped and not located near possible work opportunities.
The criminal justice system was another big impediment to self-sufficiency.
Felony records can negatively impact job prospects long after the event. Also, if fathers
are imprisoned, it means they can5t contribute to the family support, either emotionally or
financially.
Lack of education frequently means low wage job opportunities. Conversely,
even a small raise can bring a family to a financial cliff; a family that has a childcare
safety net might lose that subsidy with a raise. The raise itself is not enough to cover
child care expenses and so the family continues to struggle. Social safety nets are also
contentious among lawmakers; small reductions in food stamps, for instance, means less
food and more reliance on private food banks to make ends meet. My women
participants experienced a reduction in food stamps, higher child care costs, and a loss of
Medicaid even with a part-time job.
Misinformation around career development, Section 8 housing, and safety net
requirements was evident among my participants. Public opinion around poverty is also
frequently misinformed; many perceive families using social safety nets to be lazy or
Vll


stupid. I did not find this to be the case; all of my participants wanted to work, and they
wanted to work at jobs that would bring personal satisfaction and allow them to care for
their families. All three participants began working at an early age in jobs that I consider
to be hard and physically demanding and often scary. They all took pride in their ability
to do a job well.
vm


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I would like to thank Dr. Shelley Zion and Dr. Alan Davis for the time spent
mentoring, reading and discussing my project with me, and giving me feedback. You
have made a very daunting project seem possible and I am so very grateful for your
support.
I would like to thank Carol Lay for always believing in me and supporting me.
Thank you for discussing questions, for listening to my endless chatter about my project,
and for being interested in it and for feeding me delicious meals. Thank you for sharing
your family with me, I love them all.
I would like to thank Michael Abramovitz for his editing skills and his input into
this project. You challenge me to think more deeply about everything. Michael, you are
the smartest person I know and I am so very thankful that you are also my friend.
Many thanks to my cohort, without you I would never have made it. You guys
rock!
Thanks to Mi Casa for opening your doors to me. You are doing really important
work in the community, and I am glad that I could participate in that work in some small
way.
Many, many thanks to Maureen Garrity, my mentor and my friend. Without you I
would never have started this journey, and without you I would never have finished.
Thanks to my family and friends for your encouragement and support through this
process. I am a very lucky woman!
IX


Lastly, many thanks and much admiration to Clover, Carla, and Bethyou know
who you are! I have been so inspired by your stories, and I am honored that you shared
them with me.
x


DEDICATION
In memory of my mother, Joan Sims Bell.
This project is dedicated to my loved ones. I missed birthdays, holidays, and a lot
of time with you to complete this project and it was a high price for me. Thanks for
understanding the importance of my work. To my husband, Lynn, thank you for always
supporting my dreams and for thinking that I am smart enough to do this. I am glad to
have a partner who has always been such a believer! Your love means the world to me.
Thanks to my dad, ER Bell, who was there when I was bom and has been there for me
every day since then. Thanks for knowing that girls can do anything and making sure I
knew it too! Also, thanks for napping so I could write, and asking at least once a week,
'are you still working on that paper?5 To my children, Ben and Lyndsey, I consider being
your mom my most important work and my greatest blessing. I am so proud of both of
you! And to Macy, ER, Eli, Grayson and Adi Grace (and those who are yet to come),
dream big, follow your heart and know that Mimi loves you!
xi


TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER
I. INTRODUCTION.....................................................1
Problem of Poverty..............................................2
Research Questions.............................................10
Conceptual Framework...........................................10
II. METHODOLOGY......................................................14
III. FINDINGS........................................................17
Case Studies...................................................17
Analysis.......................................................31
Systemic Barriers..............................................34
Conclusions....................................................40
REFERENCES..........................................................45
APPENDIX
A: Research Methodology..............................................49
B: Samples of Analysis/Analytic Work.................................58
C: Problem Statement and Literature Review...,......................64
Xll


Table 1.1 Example of the Cliff Effect
TABLES
21
xm


CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
Growing up, I often heard the United States referred to as the Land of
Opportunity. We were taught in school about the American Dream, a set of ideals
embraced by this country which includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and
upward social mobility achieved through hard work and perseverance. I believed that the
United States was a great county with immense wealth, and that if you worked hard, you
would be successful. In fact, the United States is a great country with wealth for many;
but also with many more without such opportunity and who live in extreme poverty. The
gap between the rich and the poor in the United State has expanded every year for the
past two decades; 20% of wealthy Americans hold 85% of the wealth in the United
States; Sommeiller and Price (2014) contend that this income gap has widened in all 50
states. This widening gap illustrates that while some in the United States do have
plentymore than 46 million people do noteven in one of the wealthiest countries in
the world (United States Census Bureau, 2012).
Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson recognized the impact of poverty on
this great nation, and began to implement a series of initiatives to combat poverty. In the
state of the union address in 1964 Johnson stated that the federal government must
collaborate with state and local governments on programs to assist those experiencing
both temporary and long-term poverty. In his speech, Johnson said:
Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty,
but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our
fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of
education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of
1


decent communities in which to live and bring up their childrenPeters
and Wooley1999).
Since that time, a number or initiatives were created that have helped and are still
in place: for instance, food stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, (Edelman, 2012). Nevertheless
poverty continues to exist; there is still a lot of work to be done. As the gap between the
rich and the poor continues to widen, family homelessness is also up, increasing nearly
20 percent between 2007 and 2010 (Edelman2012, p. 25).
In the last 40 yearsboth the economy and the family structure have changed;
wages have not gone up, there was a significant period of economic downturn beginning
in 2008, and there has been substantial increase in families headed by single mothers
(Edelman, 2012). I wanted to investigate the very personal stories of women trying to
move out of poverty and achieve self-sufficiency.
This project looked at the definitions of poverty, using both economic and relative
measures. I also explored some of the institutional barriers that contribute to continued
poverty. I investigated the social and cultural capital that the working poor may have
access to, and the capital they do not have access to. I looked at some of the barriers and
challenges faced by those who live below the poverty line, as well as the social safety
nets and opportunities that they may have.
The Problem of Poverty
Defining poverty is difficult. Often, poverty is assessed by a strictly economic,
i.e. material, measure. The current US Federal guideline of poverty, established by the
Department of Health and Human Services, for a family of four is an income level below
2


$23,550 (Federal Register, 2013), based on poverty thresholds. This threshold represents
the estimated cost of obtaining a minimum level of food, clothing, shelter, utilities and
small amounts for other needs such as transportation, personal care, household supplies
(Short, Iceland and Dalaker, 2002). But poverty is more than just a lack of income or a
lack of wealth. Other types of capital and resources may be available and of great value
to some. For instance, medical students or graduate students might qualify as poor
because they are living on little or no income. On the other hand, they often have
resources other than income that keep them from living in poverty.
In 2011, it was estimated that 46.5 million Americans live in poverty, and that
one-third of these are children (United States Census Bureau, 2012). Poverty can be
short-lived, temporary or chronic. Exactly how many years constitute chronic poverty is
a subject of some debate, but Hulme and Shepherd (2003) suggest that chronic poverty is
defined as poverty lasting for more than five years. Most people will experience poverty
for only a short period. However, research demonstrates that those who are poor and
remain poor for an extended period of time have a high probability of remaining poor
(Corcoran, 1995; Yaqub, 2000). People who are poor for most of the course of their lives
also have a high probability of passing on poverty to the next generation (Hulme &
Shepherd, 2003). The generational cycle of poverty... was well known: poor parents
raise children with poor resources and abilitieswho therefore cant make it out of
poverty and thus raise their own children with the same problemsTough2009, p. 38).
Poverty has many ramifications; those without adequate incomes reside in the
poorest communities where resources and opportunities are stretched to the limit. Those
living in such communities have a smaller chance to develop the necessary skills or get
3


the education needed to reverse the cycle of poverty. In poorer neighborhoods, more
violence, poorer schools, and few resources are more typical (Haney, 2007). While not
all poor neighborhoods suffer these unfavorable conditions, it is still likely that in poorer
communities there are gaps and barriers to better jobs and upward mobility.
New thinking about poverty expands its definition from simple economics to a
wider view. Can those in poorer situations access other forms of capital, including social
capital (networks and connections to people) and cultural capital (skills and knowledge
passed down from ones family or educational setting)? Are they more vulnerable and
more powerless to improve their situation? Generally, poverty refers to a lack of money,
but it also involves other types of material deprivation. For instance, those without
supportive social connections cannot fall back on family and friends if a child is sick and
cannot attend day care. They may be less likely to learn about job openings or have a
positive recommendation from an employer without the necessary social or cultural
capital. They may not understand how to navigate the college admissions process or the
criminal system.
There are many misperceptions surrounding poverty. Poverty is often viewed as
the result of some failing on the part of the individual who lives in poverty, such as the
lack of a work ethic or some other value. I have heard even my own friends say that
people should quit taking government handouts and just get a job. Iceland found that
more affluent people were more likely to believe that the poor people themselves were
not doing enough2012, p. 70). There are some individual aspects that contribute to
poverty; family background and educational level, for example. But there are also
institutional barriers, and public policies that contribute to growing poverty in a nation.
4


Upward mobility is defined as the movement of an individual or a social group to
a position or higher economic status. Our system of capitalism, however, often impedes
this upward mobility. Karl Marx described the conflict between classes, the bourgeoisie
and the proletariat, as one of the ways economic systems produce inequality. The
bourgeoisie focus on keeping profit for the company high while keeping the salaries of
the proletariat low (Iceland, 2012). He saw this as a means of social stratification, or
creating classes, in our society. Max Weber expanded this concept to include not just
class, but communities and political power as additional factors that create economic
inequality. According to Iceland (2012) social stratification across social (status
groups determine.. .who becomes poor. The main status groups in todays society are
defined by the intersection of ethnicgenderand class affiliationsp. 79). In effect,
money enables those who have it to retain their higher economic status through
prestigious educations which may lead to better paying jobs, and this continues
throughout the generations. Those who are disadvantaged continue to experience barriers
at different stages that make upward mobility and better opportunities more difficult.
Many in public policy and academic circles are concerned that greater numbers of
Americans are vulnerable economically. Factors include weakening job security,
seriously eroding social safety netsflattening or stagnation of incomesand the fact
that consumer debt has reached record levels (Sandoval, Rank and Hirschl, 2009, p 717).
In 2013, consumer debt was almost 3 trillion dollars (http://www.money-
zine.com/fmancial-planning/debt-consolidation/consumer-debt-statistics/).
The American economy has changed drastically in the last 40 years and wages
have remained flat, according to Edelman (2012). The Russell Sage Foundation, states
5


that the top one percent of Americans earn 25% of the total American income. The gap
between higher wages for the rich and the reality of low paying jobs for the poor has put
those at the bottom at an even greater disadvantage. Even the middle class has been
negatively affected by the growing income gap, pushing them lower on the ladder.
According to Mishel, Bivens, Gould & Shierholz (2012), wages of middle class
Americans are lower than they have been in over a decade. There is evidence that
"Americans largely end up where they started out on the economic ladder, and the same
is true for their childrenMishel et al.2012, p. 6)effectively creating barriers to upward
mobility. If we care about equal opportunity, then we must continue to be concerned
about the inequality of income in the United States and particularly in the way that it
impacts the American ideal of equal opportunity.
State and federal governments have long tried to develop social safety nets to
provide assistance to those in greatest need. According to Oberg and Aga (2010, p. 237)
'The social safety net is a metaphor for external supports that have been designed to
minimize the risk and to protect the child as the family copes with the multiple risk
factors associated with poverty. A social safety net provided to a family may be
financial assistance provided by Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) or
food stamps. It may be temporary shelters for the homeless, or an educational program
like Head Start meant to alleviate some of the negative effects of poverty on children.
These safety nets, however, are politically controversial. There was a reduction in
food stamps in 2013. There are public calls for tighter controls, including things like
drug testing for those on public assistance. Both Florida and Michigan have passed laws
6


requiring this, despite its high price tag ($500,000 in Florida and only 5% tested positive
so far) (Gray2014).
Local Context
The state of Colorado has experienced the same economic problems that have
troubled the rest of our country in recent years, declining wages and job opportunities and
the widening income gap. Colorado has established a self-sufficiency standard, which is
defined as the income needed, by family type and size, to be self-sufficient without public
or private assistance. According to Pearce (2011)the self-sufficiency standard is a
measure of economic security that is based on the costs of the basic needs for working
families: housing, child care, food, health care, transportation, and miscellaneous items,
as well as the cost of taxes and the impact of tax credits. As Colorado recovers from its
recent economic downturn, long-term economic prosperity will require responsible
planning that puts all Coloradans on the path to self-sufficiencyPearce2011
Paragraph 1).
The self-sufficiency standard for Colorado takes into account the size of the
family and the geographical location of the family within the state or Colorado.
According to Colorados self-sufficiency standardon average a single person must make
$8.56 an hour, or $17,843 annually, to be self-sufficient; this is greater than the current
minimum wage requirement in Colorado of $7.36 an hour. One parent supporting two
children in the Denver metro area needs to make $21 an hour, or $44,000 annually, to be
self-sufficient.
7


The Cliff Effect
Social safety nets were created to give assistance to those in need, but they can be
pulled awayoften abruptlyas people try to improve their situation. Many citizens in
Colorado, as well as citizens in every state, suffer from what is known as the cliff effect
(Dinah, Chau, & Cauthen, 2007). The cliff effect is the point at which the wage earner
gets a promotion and a raise, and then loses eligibility for the federal and/or state social
safety nets currently being received, leaving a lower total income. A raise from a $10 an
hour job to a $12 an hour job might be enough to cause a family to lose their child care
subsidy. The two dollar raise is not enough to cover the cost of the child care.
Usually this occurs at a time when the family is approaching self-sufficiency; the
loss of social supports can plunge the family back into poverty. This creates a system of
dependence; some parents might find lower paying jobs rather than take a raise or a
promotion to avoid losing their social safety net eligibility, and so remain dependent on
social subsidies.
Table 1.1 Example of the Cliff Effect
S10/HR $1733.33/mo $ 10.50/HR$ 1820/month $15/HR-$2600/month
Child care subsidy >$86 per month >$780
TANF <$280 food stamps < $1041 childcare
Food Stamps Net Loss $194/month < $260 LEAP
LEAP assistance >In healthcare, payroll taxes, income taxes Net Loss $533/month Colorado Center on Law and Policy, 2012


Mi Casa Programs
This study looked at the experiences of three single mothers in Denver, Colorado
who had completed a job training program at Mi Casa Opportunity Center. The center
provides services and resources to women who are out of work, and is committed to
improving the lives of unemployed women. Mi Casa was established in 1976 by eight
Head Start mothers who wanted a safe place where women could get education and job
training, support for the job search process, and obtain resources for the entire family.
I targeted participants for the study who were participating in the Customer
Service Career Program at Mi Casa. This program, developed by Mi Casa in
conjunction with local employers, is a six-week intensive training program which covers
customer service skills and also exposes participants to local companies and job fairs.
My three participants had recently completed the program and were actively working or
looking for jobs to support their families. I listened to the stories of these women, as they
worked toward a sustainable career and tried to achieve the American dream of and self-
sufficiency and upward mobility.
Mi Casa offers educational job training, so that on completion, participants have
developed job skills and are ready to go to work. Mi Casa staff work with women to
create resumes, cover letters, and practice their interview skills. The participants develop
professional skills such as computer software experience, time management, prioritizing
tasks, and are given help in understanding the expectations of employers. Mi Casa
continues to support the women as they look for work and beyond, providing career
counseling, computer access, professional development workshops, and case
management services.
9


Research Questions
I wanted to look at what happens when women leave the program, ready to go to
work. I wondered whether the jobs they would be able to find would provide the upward
mobility promised by the American dream. I wanted to understand, specifically:
Why did the participants leave the workforce initially, or were not able to
find work in the first place?
What are some of the systemic barriers that lead to unemployment and
potentially poverty?
What are the factors that enhance or hinder them as they join or return to
the workforce?
What career resources and opportunities do they still need in order to find
upward mobility?
Conceptual Framework
To guide my thinking, I looked at the concepts of cultural, social and economic
capital, initially developed by Pierre Bourdieu (1986), a French sociologist. The three
types of capital are intertwined and speak to how resources are distributed in society
(Zembylas2007). The concept of class in the United States is often based on financial
wealth. Most Americans consider themselves to be in the middle class, based almost
entirely on their economic position. However, Bourdieu expanded the concept of capital
to encompass not only financial resources, but how people use their capital to compete
for power and resources (Allen, 2011).
10


Bourdieu named three types of capital: social capital, which looks at connections
to others; economic capital, which explores the financial situation; and cultural capital,
which includes values and ideas that have been passed down from one generation to the
next and is acquired either through ones family of origin or from educational settings.
Implicit in this is that ones family of origin has a significant impact on ones social
status or class. Thus, those with a higher social status tend to have more cultural and
social capital, and more social standing and power.
Bourdieu sees social capital as the sum of resources that can be accessed by
individuals or groupsZhangDeBloiseDeniger& Kamanzi2008, p. 98) because of
their social connections. Cultural capital refers to culturally based resources that can act
as a form of 'capital5 (Winkle-Wagner, 2010, p. 5). These resources are used in social
settings to develop ones social power. It speaks to the individuals skillsabilitiesand
preferencesand indicates ones class position.
Bourdieu5 s theory allows us to think about and attempt to understand how things
such as raceethnicityand religion impact ones thinkinghow it connects one to the
larger community, and how the larger community influences the decisions one makes
about the use of resources. Using cultural capital, we can begin to understand how one
interacts with the larger community and just how much help one can depend on within
that community and within their own informal social networks.
Bourdieu recognized the connection between economic position and educational
opportunities; he understood how lack of opportunity brings about "unequal social
conditionsWinkle-Wagner2010, p. 4). Overallthe amount of social capital that one
11


possesses depends on (1)the size of network connections that the individual can
effectively mobilize and (2) the amount and type(s) of capital (e.g.economiccultural
or symbolic) possessed by each of those to whom he or she is related (Bourdieu1986
p. 249). We should consider the social networks, the actual and potential resources that
belong to that networkand the individuals ability to access those resources when
studying the effect and use of social safety nets within the community (Carpiano, 2006).
Social capital can be a positive or negative force; it can influence some to access
resources and exclude others from accessing those same resources within a community.
Social safety nets may be availablebut it is the individuals ability to use them that is at
the heart of the idea of social capital.
Social capital encompasses family, friends, neighbors; these are important assets
that can be relied upon in times of need. Stephens (2008) suggests that poorer
neighborhoods may have more local resources, and might be more adept at networking
because they are poor. According to Woolcock and Narayan (2000), one defining feature
of being poor is that one may be excluded from certain social networks that can be used
to secure jobs and obtain decent housing. It will be important to look at the community
and whether or not the participants are included or excluded from accessing the available
resources. Developing and accessing appropriate safety nets requires one to understand
the perspective of those in the community, as they are the ones to define what their needs
are, and how they want their needs to be met.
Bourdieu5s concept of habitus is a constmct that helps one understand one5s own
history. Bourdieu defined habitus as a system of dispositions, or a "cognitive map that
routinely guides and evaluates a persons choices and optionsCockerham & Hinote
12


2009, p. 203). This assumes that some things are taken for granted, or that a person
behaves in a certain way without thinking, or that there are certain unconscious rules that
one follows. Habitus refers to how the person views herself and speaks to her personal
assessment of her own potential. It is shaped by the family of origin and their
community; I looked at their assessments of themselves as students, as employees, as
children and as parents.
I wanted to understand barriers in the individuals ability to use the resources that
are available. I aimed to understand their motivation for work and their choices
surrounding work and family, and how they use their social and cultural capital within
the community, and how they develop and sustain motivation for self-sufficiency.
13


CHAPTER II
METHODOLOGY
This is a qualitative study exploring the perceptions of unemployed
women around their life circumstances, including poverty, career, and community.
Qualitative research focuses on how people construct their worldshow they interpret
their experiences, and the meaning they attribute to those experiences (Merriam, 2009).
The case study is an empirical, evidence based approach to a problem (Lee, Michna,
Brennestuhl, 2010), in this case focusing on the aspects of moving from poverty to self-
sufficiency.
According to Merriam (2009) Qualitative case studies share with other forms of
qualitative research the search for meaning and understanding, the researcher as the
primary instrument of data collection and analysisand inductive investigative strategy
and the end product being richly descriptivep.39). I aimed to understand the obstacles
and challenges that might be getting in the way of achieving upward mobility and job
promotion. The focus of this study is on understanding and determining meaning around
the participants5 own perception of their prospects for self-sufficiency, which made the
qualitative method appropriate.
I interviewed, over the course of four months, three single mothers who had
completed the customer service job training program at Mi Casa Opportunity Center, and
were either looking for work, or had recently found work. I wanted to gain insight into
the resources available and accessible to these women, as well as to explore the specific
gaps and barriers that each of them face as they go to work.
14


I recruited the women with a flyer at Mi Casawith the help and encouragement
of the staff at Mi Casa. I was looking for Mi Casas typical client: a single mother
looking for work or recently employed. Three women volunteered for my study. I met
with each one, explained the study, and got consent. I developed a series of questions
that I asked each of the women. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in the
community where the participants lived or at Mi Casa. After two interviews, I
transcribed the interviews and developed case studies. Each participant was asked to
review her case study, offer factual corrections, and to fill in any gaps identified during
coding and synthesis of material. In addition to the participant interviews, I also gathered
data from Mi Casa staff and from an experienced policy maker at the Colorado Center on
Policy and Law
Questions during the semi-stmctured interviews included gathering information
about their family of origin, their school experiences, their dreams, and their early work
experiences. I gathered information about their perceptions of school, themselves as
learners, how they came to be in their current situation, and how they learned about the
expectations of their families. I identified resources and safety nets that they are
currently using, others that they might be aware of but not able to use, as well as any
challenges and barriers to getting or keeping a job.
Each interview was transcribed. The transcripts were then used to write three
separate case studies, one for each participant. These cases provided information on
supports that were working, problems that still existed, and provided some insight as to
why self-sufficiency, and ultimately upward mobility, is so difficult to achieve. The case
study was then uploaded into Dedoose, a computer application for qualitative data
15


analysis, and coded. In this process, gaps in information that were noticed were
addressed with a follow-up interview with each of the three participants.
After completing at least two interviews with each of the three participants and
transcribing the results, I wrote a case study for each participant. After the initial case
study was written, each participant was given an opportunity to review the case study for
accuracy. I used this opportunity to identify and fill in gaps in the data. The entire case
study for each participant is presented in Appendix B. A synopsis of the case study and
the findings are presented in this section. All of the names are pseudonyms, selected by
the participants.
16


CHAPTER III
FINDINGS
Case Studies
Case Study 1:A Place of Her Own: Clover
Clover is a 20-year old single mother of a 9-month old baby boy. She and her son
live with her parents and her brother in the house where Clover grew up. Clover
describes herself as a 'tomboy5 who loves crafting and using power tools to create yard
art. She comes across as somewhat self-assured.
Clovers family appears to be middle class. They own their own homethey have
three cars, and both parents work. Her father is an architect and her mother is a cake
decorator. It is apparent to Clover, however, that her family is feeling the effects of the
downturn in the economy. She describes her family as stable its just hard times. Her
father took a lower paying job recently and her mother has seen a decline in work as well.
Without Clover5 s food stamps, the family would have to limit meat products or go with
cheaper food brands.
Of all the participants, Clover seems to have the most support from her family.
They provide housing, transportation, and child care on a regular basis. In return, Clover
uses her food stamps to provide food for the entire family. In addition to food stamps,
social safety nets that Clover uses are the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program
(CCCAP), Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Her son is
also participating in the Women Infant and Children Program (WIC) until he is 5, which
17


provides nutritious food for him. Clover found out about the different social safety nets
from a family friend and a former co-worker, both of whom helped Clover identify
available resources and apply for them when Clover first became pregnant.
Clover has a high school diploma and a semester at community college. She
describes herself as good at math and science, but not as smart at reading or history. She
thinks that her parents expected her to complete college, and her grandmother had given
her some savings bonds, intended to supplement the cost of her college education. After
that semester at community college, though, Clover cashed those bonds and moved to
California with a boyfriend.
When that did not work out, she returned to Denver and went to work in retail.
Shortly after that, despite the fact that she was on a form of birth control, she became
pregnant, an event that changed the course of her life. Initially, she considered adoption,
but the babys father convinced her not to do this. Shortly after the birth, however, he
disappeared and has not been a part of her or her sons life. Clover finds taking care of
her son harder than she expected; she has seen others take care of their children and work
and they seem to manage just fine.
Although she lives with her parents now, she would like to find Section 8 housing
in the near future. She has heard about Warren Village from some of her friends, and
would like to live there, but she thinks that they have at least a nine page waiting list. She
currently shares a room with her son, and she knows that as he gets older, this will
become more challenging, especially once he moves out of his crib.
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When we first met, Clover had just finished the job training at Mi Casa, and was
looking for work. She was quickly hired by Home Depot but there are some challenges.
She doesnt own a carand so she must depend on her parents or the RTD bus to get her
to and from work. The Home Depot where she works is not the most convenient one to
her house or to the child care center. Just getting to work requires either two or three
busesdepending on the bus schedule and which one I can take. She also relies on her
mom to take her son to child care on most days; taking him on the bus when it is dark and
cold is difficult and requires additional bus time. If she takes her son to child care, she
has to take two buses and walk a block to child care, and then take two more buses to
work. She has to repeat that process when she gets off work. Her availability to work is
limited to week days because that is when the child care center is open, but that
restriction is hindering her ability to work at least 25 hours a week. Her CCCAP child
care subsidy requires that she work at least 25 hours a week in order to keep her child
care. Currently, she is working with her parents to figure out some additional evenings
and weekend days that she might be able to work if they could provide child care.
Also, at $9 an hourshe doesnt think she earns enough to buy a car or rent her
own home. Oftentoo, if Home Depot isnt busyshe gets sent home; once she was sent
home only 45 minutes after getting there, even though it took her almost an hour to
navigate the transportation from her house to work.
After the birth of her son, Clover had some seizures. She wont be able to drive
again, until she has been seizure free for a time. Currently, she is not able to see her
neurologist because when she first got her job at Home Depot, she lost her Medicaid,
despite the fact that she wasnt working full-time and had no benefits. The income cap
19


on Medicaid has been increased, so she thinks that she will be able to get her Medicaid
back in 2014.
CurrentlyClover is making $9 an hourbut is struggling to get 25 hours per
week. This means her wages would be about $700-800 per month. Her food stamps,
however, will be cut from the $300 she has been getting to $159 dollars starting in
February because of her job. She lost her Medicaid, but hopes to get this back. Also,
now that she is working, she will be required to pay $101 to the child care center,
previously paid entirely by CCCAP. She also will need to contribute some rent (she and
her parents are discussing the amount), if she is not contributing food stamps to the
family. Right now, she is able to spend some of her paycheck on her baby and on clothes
and personal items for herself and she is able to put a small amount into a savings
account, if there are no unexpected expenses during the month. She looks at this as her
nest egg for someday helping her to buy a car or find a place to livebut with increased
expenses, she is not sure if she can continue with this.
Clover dreams of being an animal control officer, but she thinks that this would
require some criminal justice training; she is currently trying to complete some
coursework online. If she can get at least 25 hours a week of work, she thinks she could
also attend college part time and pursue her dream. In January 2014, she was able to get
financial aid to take three online courses at a community college. She hopes to complete
an associates degree in 17 monthsand will consider continuing on for a bachelors
degree.
If she could create a perfect world for her son, it would be this:
20


Onehe would have a father in his lifeI dont care if it was someone that
I get married to and it turns into a father figure for him, I just want a male person
in his life besides his grandfather and his uncle. I would like him to have a sibling
to play around with and learn how to share and stuff but I would try and make it
more like, be more supportive of him no matter what he chooses to do, basically if
he wants to, like is gay or straight or whateverI dont care about his preferences
if he wants to go to college or notI dont care as long as he gets out of high
school. As long as he graduates high school, that is probably my biggest standard
for him other than having a job, if he wants to go to college and get another
degree thats up to himthats his choice. But a HS diploma and work are the two
things that I want him to have.
Case Study 2: A Second Chance: Carla
Carla is a 41-year old single Latina, who grew up in a large family in Texas. She
has a sweet smile, and is smart but somewhat tentative in her responses. Her father was a
truck driver and her mom was a stay-at-home mom. She remembers her childhood as
happy, with her mom cooking big breakfasts and listening to music on the radio.
Carla5 s mom grew up in Juarez and was very poor. When her mom and dad
married, he brought her mom to the United States, and her mom was "happy to stay at
home and have babies. Carla says that she didnt grow up taking responsibility for any
choresher mom did all of that. Her mom also spoke limited Englishand so she couldnt
help her children with their homework.
Carla does not think her mom cared about school, as no one ever checked to see if
the children had done their homework. Carla describes school as lonely but thinks that
she was smarter than most of the other kids; she did well in school and especially in
math. She thinks if she had tried she would have done well in school, but she thought
school was boring for the most part. As a child, Carla wanted to be a lawyer; her older
21


brother got into trouble with the law for stealing money from her dads truck stop at the
age of 13 and was locked up and she was interested in learning how to help him.
At the age of 14, Carla got her first job, selling candy after school. She would
often make $20 in a day. At 16, she got a job as a lifeguard, and her dad got her a job at a
thrift store on weekends, where she cleaned and stocked shelves.
When Carla was 17 though, her whole word changed; her father got cancer and
died, and the family lost everything. She did get some social security benefits for a time
after her fathers death. She would give this money to her mother to help with household
expenses, but she was allowed to keep $60 from each check for herself.
They were forced to move to the projectsand Carla says her mom got realreal
religious. Carla herself says after my dad died I went like crazyI went berserk. I
started doing drugs and getting highand I guess I just didnt want to feel my dads death.
And we didnt have a burial. My mom cremated him and she had the ashes at the house
for a while and then out of the blue she just sends them to his family in Mississippi, so we
dont know where he was buriedyou know. She doesnt have any contact with his
family in Mississippi, although she remembers visiting them when her dad was alive.
Carla dropped out of high school eventually, and attended an accounting school
for a while. She thinks this was the result of some testing that the school did, and that
they encouraged her to try the accounting school. She eventually quit that, too, though,
because it was a night school and she didnt have transportation. Her sister was supposed
to pick her up, but she would forget. After a couple of bad experiences trying to catch a
ride home, Carla quit, just a few weeks shy of graduation. She saysThere was a couple
22


of times I got rides and it didnt go very well. Hah. I would end up having to fight men
offand stuff like thatso I just had to drop out
At 18, Carla met her husbandgot pregnant and had babieslots of babies (4).
She and her husband moved around quite a bit, and he ended up in jail. She tried to raise
money for bail quickly, initially taking a job as a stripper. She says he needed money to
get out of prison. So I wentand I started stripping. I got hired as a stripperand I didnt
even know how to dance. I was just thinkinghow could I get money fast legally? She
describes that job as terrifying, and as the "hardest work I had ever done in my whole
life. She wasnt able to get him bonded out thoughbecause she didnt have a
permanent residence, and the legal system considered him a flight risk. So Carla took her
babies and went to Arizona to be with her mother. He did get out of jail eventually, and
joined his family in Arizona and for a time, the family was stable, both parents working
for a temp agency.
At some point in 2004, the family moved back to Texas, to a small town where
her husband had family. By this time, they had four children, the oldest one was 12 and
the youngest was four. When her husband got locked up again, she was forced to take a
job at a convenience store, and she would leave the kids in the care of the 12-year old.
She was making $7 an hourand her rent was pretty high and bills and the school was
wanting this and wanting that, needing something for school, it was just really, really
hard. My check wasnt making it to put food on the tablenot for four kids...so the
oldest one took on most of the responsibilities, as far as, you know when they got home
from school, she was sending them off to school in the morning, because I would work
the shift when no one would show upso I never saw my kids and I wasnt making
23


enough money either And she would sometimes go as long as three days without really
seeing her kidsunless they were sleeping. She didnt have child careand then I started
selling drugstrying to make my check stretch that way... so I got into trouble like that
really fast and I got my kids taken away.
Carla admits that she was in a bad place at that time. What she needed was some
help, assistance to pay her bills and care for her children. Instead, she left them alone
while she worked and while she was out selling dmgs, and eventually she got arrested
and locked up, and her children were taken away. Her sister, who had two kids of her
own, took the four kids and raised them. Carla was charged with a felony for child
endangerment. Carla spent years doing dmgs and trying to survive without her kids.
Carla is in contact with her daughters now, who are both over 18, but she has not talked
with her two boys for years.
In 2009, Carla came to Denver and moved in with her mother. She spent a year
and a half trying to get wellto get off drugsand get her life back together. After a year
and a half, she felt that she needed to get a job. She needed something within walking
distance of her mothers housebecause she did not have transportation. So, she went to
work at a car wash. At the car wash, she met a man and eventually ended up getting
pregnant and relapsing into dmgs.
As soon as her baby was bornCarla quit doing drugs. She has now been clean
for two years and is working to make a life for herself and her baby. The babys father is
no longer in the picture, having been sent to prison and losing contact. Carla thinks this
is for the bestshe describes him as lazy and worthless but it is hard. She is glad that
24


she lived in Colorado and not Texas, because Colorado gave her a second chance, a
chance to be a good mother and a good provider. She is learning how to live on her own,
and trying to find a job.
When we last spoke, Carla had finished the job training program and was actively
looking for work. Despite her good work ethic and her vast job experience, she is finding
it difficult to land a job. She interviewed with Home Depot, but because of the child
endangerment felony, they would not hire her, despite the fact that this was almost 10
years ago. She attends job fairsbut because she doesnt have internet at homeshe often
cannot complete the job application until the following day, when she can go to Mi Casa
and use the computers. By then, she thinks, the jobs have been filled by someone who
was able to fill out the application immediately.
Carla and her baby live in a transitional housing facility. The facility is actually a
converted motel, so she and the baby have one room where they live and sleep. Her
kitchen consists of a microwave in her room; the facility has a community kitchen with a
lot of stoves, and she has her own refrigerator over there. The kitchen is being
remodeled, so right now it is not useable. Some days, a church brings in food for the
community. Her son gets breakfast and lunch at childcare during the week. Other days,
for the most part, she buys "Chinese dinners that you can heat up in the microwave, and
they have microwave dinners, but it is more expensive, and with food stamps cut, so
thats kind of like ouch. I was getting $360, and now I am getting $270 ...they cut me
in October by $40 and then in November they cut me another $40.
25


The housing facility charges her a percentage of her income, and her TANF is
considered income. She is on TANF and food stamps and the Colorado Child Care
Assistance Program (CCCAP). With her TANF, she pays her rent, for her methadone
and for Pampers. If she could get off the methadoneshe could save that $100 a month.
But she explainsI have to get a job to get off of that because I dont want to be coming
off of the methadone and starting a job so its not so psychologically hard and physically
hardthat way I already have a job and Id be stable and Id have like a routineand Id
be stable, and I would know when I could come off of it successfully. At least without
using, you know, a lot of people have gotten off of it, but they use some other kind, like
theyll take pills or something elseand that is not an option for me so I need to do it the
right way, so hopefully, once I get a job, I get stable, I could start coming off of the
methadonethats another big goal for me.
She knows that the place where she lives has some services, law department,
counselingparenting classes and stuff for older kidslike a kids club ...and sometimes
they take them to ballgames. She learned about the place from a friendshes at the
methadone clinic where Im atso she told me about the place. I like itits Christian
basedI really like itits different than a lot of other places To get inthey have like
an orientation, you call, if they are going to start January, you call, go to Orientation, fill
out the paperwork and stuff, those 28 people, well, you have to get picked, and I feel
really lucky because I got picked out of that many people, but I think mainly because I
was the only one that only had one kid. Most of them are two roomsif youve got two
kids you have to have two roomsso I was lucky that I only had one baby. For three
26


months, she has been on probation, but soon, U1 should go into partnership. The first
three months you are on probation to see if you work out.
She will be allowed to live at that place for two years, and then she will be able to
move to Section 8 housing. I dont really see myself getting Section 8, because Ive
never been the one to want to be on welfare, and I just see if I could get a job I could pay
for my own wayand I wouldnt need Section 8, so I just dont know where thats going
to go. I just want to get there.. .if I stay there the two years, I can either get a car from
them ...the money that you pay in rent some of its going into a savings accountso when
you leave there you could have a thousand or two. The place gives cars to residents who
move out at the end of two years, and they save a portion of the rent in a savings account
for the resident when he/she is able to move out. They also are allowed to take the
furniture that is in the unitthe dishesthe pots and panslittle starter stuff that helps
them get started when they move out. She describes the place as lonely. But I like it
there and Ive been happy.
She dreams of being a phiebotomistI could do that foreverI am really good at
itI have a lot of experience but her felonies keep her from doing it. She is hoping to get
her felonies bondedbecause it [the felonies] happened almost 10 years ago. I want to
give it a try [being a phlebotomist] but right now I just need to get a job and get a little bit
of stability before I jump into that.
Case 3: Hope for the Future: Beth
Beth is a bubbly, optimistic Latina in her early 40s. Her oldest son is 25 and lives
on his own, but two sons and a daughter live with her, as well as the daughter of her
27


boyfriend and the daughters three- year-old. The boyfriend is locked up for violating
parole; he was driving without a license and was sent to jail a few weeks before we met.
Butsays Bethhe works in construction; how is he supposed to get to work? It helps
that his daughter lives with Beth, because she gets food stamps, which helps feed this
large family.
Beth wanted to be a part of this study, because she hopes that her story will help
other single mothers in some way. She has come a long way and the journey has not
been easy. Beth speaks with pride about her youngest son; he is playing football and is
apparently quite good. The middle son has recently been in some trouble for a burglary,
and was wearing an ankle monitor when we met. While Beth wants to help him, she has
limited resourcesso she says he will have to find a job to pay restitutionbut she doesnt
know how the court case will come out. She describes her daughter as shes something
else and shes the one with attitude but at 13 we agreed this was pretty normal.
Beth grew up in a large family, with her mother and stepdad, who have been
married since Beth was five years old. They both worked in an envelope factory for over
20 yearsuntil it closed downand then they both retiredbut she says they miss it.
Beth says that her mother was really strict but my mom always taught all of us
including my brothers, how to clean, how to wash dishes, clothes.. .and I remember her
telling my brothers, you might not get married, or you might get married and end up
divorced where you never know, so you have to be ready for it, so she taught all of us
how to cookcleaneverything. They had a really nice house in Thornton where she
shared a room with her sister.
28


Despite the fact that Beth loved schoolshe doesnt remember her mother saying
much about school. She thought she was really good at science and at math. She thinks
that if her mother had been more interested in education, Beth would have taken it more
seriously. One of Beths regrets is that she didnt finish high schooland she has never
found the time to get her GED. She thinks that she has had a more difficult time finding
jobsbecause many places require a GED or they wont consider your application. She is
pushing her own kids to do well in school, and her 15-year-old son is already looking at
colleges.
Beth wanted to get her first job at 15, and her mother taught her about budgeting.
She saysI would take $100 a monthor you know per checkI would take out so much
and she would teach me that you are going to have to pay rent, pay bills when you move
out on your own. Beth followed that adviceand has worked more or less steadily since
she was 15, working in fast food. She has done everything from cooking to cashiering to
waitressing. She has liked almost all of her jobs, except working the graveyard shift at a
convenience storewhich she described as scary andyou never know what you are
going to getwhos going to come in
In 11th grade, Beth got pregnant and dropped out of high school. She was 18 and
her mom was glad that she was older when she got pregnant. The father of her son was
in the militaryand Beth didnt have to work then; he took care of them. He was
stationed in other places, so Beth lived with her parents during that time. The
relationship did not work outbecause he liked to drink...a lot. Also, she thinks they
were so young and he started getting on my nerves. They remain friendly though. Her
remaining three children were with a different man, who also liked to drink a lot. She has
29


been with her current boyfriend since 2006, and until he went to jail, he was helping her
raise the kids.
When Beths boyfriend got locked upBeth was working at Wal Mart. It was so
weird she saidbecause Wal-Mart they dont really recognize youthey dont pay
attention to you, you know, their employees kind of, they have their favorites where they
do like employee of the month and stuff but they never really recognized the people up
front. She eventually got fired from Wal Mart, she thinks because her attendance was
bad. But if the kids were sickshe didnt really have anyone to help out with that. After
she was fired from Wal Martshe wasnt able to pay her bills and she and her kids
became homeless. She talks about how hard that time was, but that she and her kids grew
closer. They were forced to live in a homeless shelter until she met a woman who offered
her a job managing a mobile home park.
Beths boyfriend wrote to Mi Casa about Bethand Beth was able to get into their
job training program. When she finished that training program, she was able to get a job
at King Soopersmaking $8.39 an hour. She loves this job, and has worked there for
about a year. Management knows who she is, she even got a gift card in the first month
for her excellent customer service. She has been promoted and at the end of her first
year, is now a manager in the cheese department making almost $18 an hour. She also
has one week of paid vacation and sick leave, even though she is unsure how all this
works.
Because of her jobshe currently has no social supports; her children are still on
Medicaid, but she hopes at some point to get them off even that support. Her son need
30


braces, and Medicaid will not pay for that, so she is trying to figure out how to pay for
that. It is still hard to make ends meet, even at $18 an hour, because she has a large
family. It is somewhat easier because the kids are now older and they live close enough
for them to walk to school on their own. She also has an old van that provides
transportation for the family. It does give her some trouble, but sometimes her brother is
able to fix it. The family visits food banks and clothing banks about once a month
especially around rent time to help make ends meet. Her 15 year old son would like to
get a job to help out, but Beth really wants him to focus on school and football for now.
Beth loves her job, though, and hopes to work at King Soopers forever. She feels valued
and appreciated at her job.
Analysis
When I began this study, I was interested in looking at the likelihood of self-
sufficiency and upward mobility, especially among those who were unemployed or just
recently employed. I wanted to examine the social safety nets that were helping, and
identify others that might be needed. I wanted to hear about womens experiences as
they finished job training and moved into the workforce. I had hoped to find evidence of
the cliff effect as women moved from unemployment to the workforce. I did not find
much evidence of this; instead, what I discovered was what Chaer Roberts of the
Colorado Center on Policy and Law calls 'mini cliffs5 (personal communication, January
2014). These mini cliffs can be a series of challenges and setbacks to self-sufficiency
that happen along the way, obstacles to being able to find and obtain housing,
transportation, and work, and they occur at different points along the journey.
31


The other unexpected finding for me, is that my three participants were all raised
by two parent families in single family homes for most of their childhood. None of them
were aware of financial issues in the family early on; and none of them described their
families as poor or needy. They recalled family vacations, happy memories, and
provided evidence of their parents5 steady work. For all three of them, though, a
traumatic event or experience (or a series of life events) changed the course of life for
each of them.
Social capital from the two-parent families of each woman provided friends and
networks at school and in the community, and all the women reported being smart and
doing well in school. These networks later took a different direction when they left high
school or community college. They were not able to expand the social networks in ways
that allowed them to find meaningful work or complete their education. They had family
members who took them in when they got pregnant, but school networks reduced
significantly, so much so that they eventually left formal education. They had social
networks that helped them get public supports, like food stamps and TANF, once they
had children, but not necessarily to get more education or job training or find job
opportunities for anything beyond low-wage jobs. Carla was able to find housing
through a social contact, but it was temporary housing. Beth found housing through a
contact she met at the homeless shelter, but it is small and crowded for a family of four.
There is little evidence in my study of the type of social capital that would help women
move into the middle class; no way to learn about better paying jobs, hear about job
openings, or find out about post-secondary educational opportunities.
32


For Cloverher familys cultural capital included the expectation that she would
finish her education (college) and they had planned financially for that. Clover made
some decisions about that money, though, that have prevented her from finishing her
education. For Beth and Carla, school did not come across to them as a priority for their
families. For Beth, her mom was glad that she 'was older5 when she got pregnant,
despite the fact that she was 18 and had not completed high school. For all three of the
participants, a lack of education and marketable job skills have made the job search more
difficult. For Beth, as her children get older, one of her priorities is that her children will
go to college, as she sees now the importance of an education.
As expected, one of the most striking barriers in this study has to do with single
motherhood. As women become mothers, the barriers and challenges increase, especially
if the father is not in the picture. Households with only one wage earner in todays
economy are likely to struggleespecially if the head of the household is female. A
woman still earns only 77 percent of what a man earns (Edelman2013, p. 36). It
becomes even more of a challenge if the woman qualifies for mainly low wage work, like
my participants. Low wage work typically does not come with paid leave benefits.
Some of the effects of low wage jobs can be mitigated if there are two wage earners in
the family; however, for single mothers, they have the responsibility of caring for the
children at home and supporting the family singlehandedly. Establishing policies that
will allow single mothers to continue with their education would make a significant
difference in their career prospects.
All three participants were confident about finding work and had persevered
through some fairly tough times. All of them began working at an early age at a variety
33


of jobs. All three participants thought that they were good students and recognized the
value of education and job training in getting better jobs. Beth recognized the impact of
not having a GED on her job search. Carla worried about the possibility of relapse and
losing her children, but her resolve was impressive.
Systemic Barriers
Life events
There were several significant life events that participants identified as life
changing. Death of a parent could alter the course of a life. For Carla, the death of her
father at 17 resulted in the loss of the family house, a move to the projects, her mother5 s
changing and becoming religiousand Carla herself going crazypartying and doing
drugs.
Pregnancy in the teen years changed the course of life for all of them. Both Carla
and Beth dropped out of high school to care for a baby. Clover finished high school and
one semester of community college, but then her pregnancy caused her to change course.
For Clover, in particular, caring for a baby has been harder than she expected. For all of
them, mothering and childcare has significantly impacted their ability to become self-
sufficient. More mouths to feed coupled with a lack of transportation and low paying
jobs creates a tenuous position for single mothers.
For Carla and Beth, having a partner go to jail also changed the situation; Carla
was unprepared to support the family and was forced to take a low paying job at a
convenience store, leaving her kids in the care of her 12 year old. Trying to make her
34


paycheck go further, she also began selling dmgs, and when she left the kids at home and
was not at work, she was arrested and her four children were taken away from her. For
Beth, when her partner went to jail, she lost her job then became homeless.
Children and child care
This is one of the most significant obstacles. Single mothers need jobs to support
their families, but they also love their children and want to care for them. Most of them
do this without much help. For Beth, she was able to successfully work at a job which
required shift work only once her children were old enough and she was able to move
close enough for them to walk to school. Both Carla and Clover were taking advantage
of the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP); this came with some barriers
and challenges of its own.
Child care centers in this program are open only five days a week; the jobs
available to my participants were often retail stores that required shift work, and shifts
varied; they could be on any day of the week or weekend. Offering child care to wage
earners seven days a week, and during evening hours would definitely help; often women
looking for jobs cannot pursue jobs if they cannot find suitable child care. Beth never
took advantage of CCCAP because she has always worked in places where the shifts and
the hours varied; finding suitable child care was always hard.
Child care without public assistance can be prohibitively expensive, often more
than college tuition at a local community college (Colorado Center on Law and Policy,
2013). With public assistance, though, there are requirements that may prevent use of
that public assistance. Participants of CCCAP are required to work at least 25 hours a


week to keep this support; this can be difficult in a number of ways. If the mother
depends on public transportation to get to work, she must also depend on public
transportation to get her child or children to day care or school. The time to get to the
child care center and then on to work can take an hour or more, depending on the distance
from home to work site. Only Clover had help from her parents, who took her son to
child care on most days. Also, the centers5 hours can be a problem; most are open from 6
to 6, Monday through Friday. Stores like King Soopers and Home Depot are open later
than that and on weekends as well as weekdays. These restrictions often result in
scheduling problems at the job site, especially workers with little seniority. CCCAP
seems to work best for parents with steady jobs and regular work schedules. It does not
work as well for families with varying work schedules, or for jobs that require weekend
work.
Transportation
Another significant obstacle is the lack of good public transportation. Cars in a
city are not really a luxury, although buying and maintaining a car can be prohibitively
expensive for the working poor. Public transportation is onerous.
Only one of the participants had a car, and for her, that car was older and often
gave her trouble. Just recently, the wipers, a headlight and a taillight all went out. There
wasnt enough money to fix all of them at onceso a choice had to be made. When she is
not able to keep in mnning, she relies on public transportation Joining my other two
participants in trying to navigate the public bus schedule. This schedule often results in
long bus rides, two or three bus changes, adding significantly to the time it takes to get to
36


work and back. Add into the mix the need to drop a child at daycare or school, and the
trip becomes even longer. They werent always able to find jobs near their homes;
Clover was hoping to move to a Home Depot closer to her house, once she had passed
her probation period. There is often a fairly long wait time for public transportation, or a
need to change buses, which increases the time to get to work, to get a child to day care,
to get home.
Housing
All of my participants had housing, but two of the three were in more temporary
situations. Carla lived in a transitional housing facility, which was located right on 1-25.
Although the area was well kept, and came with a playground, she had quit riding her
bike around the areabecause it was scary once you left the property. Also, it was not
located near any places that were likely to have jobs for her, which meant that she had to
rely on the bus. Carlas housing didnt have a real kitchenonly a microwave; this meant
that she had to spend her food stamps on more expensive prepared meals, since she
couldn5t cook.
Clover was living with her parents in a cluttered house. She was sharing a room
with her son, and the entire family shared a bathroom. The availability of Section 8
housing, which might be affordable, seemed limited; Clover thought that Warren Village
had a nine page waiting list.
37


Legal Issues
According to Chaer Roberts (personal communication 2014), poverty moves to a
whole new level for the formally incarceratedin terms of extra barriers in getting
assistance. Carlas child endangerment felony seemed to be a huge barrier. She was
arrested and sent to jail. However, despite the fact that it happened nearly 10 years ago, it
kept her from getting a job at Home Depot (and likely others). According to Allard and
Small (2013)...a criminal record makes it nearly impossible to find stable employment
in todays tough economyp. 6). Carla saysIm not that person anymore and despite
having a lot of job experience and a good work ethic, she has been unable to find work. I
wondered if this charge was more severe because she could not afford good legal
representation; without good legal representation, there are consequences that are long-
term but may not be apparent at the start.
All of the participants were adversely affected by the legal system; for Beth, the
fact that her boyfriend was locked up meant that she became the sole caretaker of 4
children; it meant that she couldnt afford rent she once shared with a partner; she and her
kids became homeless, living in a shelter. It also meant that she often missed work
because of the chaos of living in a shelter or temporary housing, and eventually she lost
her job. Her boyfriend lost his drivers license because he got behind in his child
support; he couldnt get to his construction job without transportation. He couldnt pay
his child support without a job. It seemed to be a vicious cycle without a good resolution.
For Cloverher sons dad was arrested shortly after her sons birth; he disappeared after
this and was no longer in the picture.
38


Michelle Alexander (2012) describes the criminal justice system as a legal way to
discriminate against many. Once you are labeled a felonthe old forms of
discrimination.. .are perfectly legal (Alexander2012, p. 4). According to Chaer
Roberts (personal communication, 2014), there is also some evidence that legal issues are
more of a problem for people who live in poorer neighborhoods. Police patrols are more
likely present in certain neighborhoods, there is evidence of racial profiling, and those in
poverty have limited access to legal assistance.
Mini Cliffs
As income increases and social supports decrease, these single mothers
experience mini cliffs. Two of them were able to get jobs, paying more than minimum
wage. However, Clover was making about $9 an hour, but finding it difficult to get even
25 hours a week of work, with daycare restrictions and transportation issues. She had
also lost her Medicaid for a timewhich meant that she couldnt see her neurologist for
her seizures. She experienced a reduction in her food stamps and an increase in her part
of the child care subsidy. These increased expenses means that she will continue to be
dependent on her parents for support for a time, and likely will not find a home of her
own anytime soon.
For Beth, she was making almost $18 an hour, but for a family of four, this was
not enough to be self-sufficient. There was still not enough money for unexpected car
repairs. She was also still using food banks and clothing banks at least once a month to
make ends meet.
39


Other Issues
While all of the women were aware of social supports that could help with child
carehousingand foodthere was often a lack of understanding about other issues.
Career and job counseling may be one issue. Possibly, Clover could get an entry level
job as an animal control officer with a certificate programrather than an associates
degree. Carla has experienced the most difficulty obtaining work, because she has a
felony that is considered a barrier to employability. Despite her hard work, Carla
continues to search for employment.
Conclusions and Recommendations
All three women in my study had a life altering event that contributed to their
plunge into poverty. Early pregnancies which ended formal education, at least at the
time, coupled with low wage offerings left them to depend on public assistance and social
safety nets. All of them are raising families will little or no support from the childrens
fathers. Two of the three women left high school before completion. High schools could
have more robust career development strategies in place to prepare women for the
workplace, and a better support for those women who become pregnant so that they
might find a way to complete their high school education. Additionally, life skills in
terms of budgeting, household management and development of lifelong learning plans
and goals are imperative. Thinking about the importance of social capital, or building
networks, could also be an important strategy for high schools. Developing good
pipeline programs to introduce higher education would also help, with information on
how to obtain financial aid and housing suitable for families.
40


All three women were able to access public assistance in varying degrees to help
themyet continued to struggle to cover basic needslet alone unexpected expenses. All
of them learned about public assistance and housing programs from family or friends.
Childcare restrictions and red tape were significant barriers. Nontraditional days and
hours (weekends, evenings) would help all of these families. Children deserve quality
child care; available jobs for women with little education are usually slightly above
minimum wage but put families below the poverty threshold. These same jobs are often
at big box stores that require hours beyond traditional 8-5 work schedules. For single
mothers to continue to work, childcare assistance is imperative. For children, it is
important to receive consistent, regular child care, which could be provided by centers
that offer childcare that match a parents work scheduled. Changing reimbursement
rates, holiday policies, and sick day policies to benefit the child care centers would ensure
that small business could continue to offer quality child care without loss of income.
A lack of information persists among the women as well. Clover wanted to find
Section 8 housing, but was unsure how to go about it. She had heard mmors of a nine-
page waiting list. She wanted to be an animal control officer but thought that she had to
have a college degree to make this happen. Career counseling seemed to be limited to
industries that had many available jobs (big discount chains) rather than finding
meaningful work.
Carla experienced obstacles in terms of a felony offense almost 10 years ago; she
thought that it might fall off in 10 years, but she needs work now. Changes in policy
offering a clean slate for non-violent felonies would significantly improve her chances of
finding work.
41


Mi Casa provides job training, but the scope of this training is limited; the jobs that
most of the women who complete this program can get are still low paying jobs. No
agency is addressing continuing career development and job training, preparing women
for jobs that will allow them to find upward mobility and to move into the middle class.
Mi Casa also provides some opportunities to build social capital; connecting women with
legal advice, some assistance for establishing or repairing credit, and tax advice. This
allows for some expansion of social capital; there is a need, though, for a wider circle of
connections, so that women can learn about better job openings or find opportunities to
influence policy that supports ways to transform work places to so that these workplaces
support the new single parent family structures and provide a means for balancing family
obligations as well as providing opportunities for career development.
Work should pay enough for families to be self-sufficient; it should cover the
basic expenses, at the very least, and provide food, housing, transportation, and medical
care. Minimum wage needs to be a living wage. Women should be paid the same as men
who do the same work. A need for some type of paid leave exists as well. Without paid
leave, a single parent may have to miss work to tend to a sick child and lose even that
low-wage job if multiple absences are required. If full time work doesnt support the
family then public assistance programs make up the difference. Social safety nets can
help those with the greatest need, but reductions in these safety nets often come too soon.
As the family income approaches a break-even point, these safety nets are withdrawn.
The net effect is that the family continues to struggle even while working full time. Also,
the political controversy surrounding social safety nets make these supports precarious;
42


the slight reduction in food stamps in 2013 resulted in a greater need for food pantries for
Carla and Clover.
Lack of education limits the opportunities for better paying jobs; low paying jobs
offer little chance at self-sufficiency and almost no chance for upward mobility. Those at
the bottom, especially single parent families, find it difficult to raise a family and work; a
lack of public transportation means longer commute times to school and work; lack of
family support means missed days at work when a child is sick; too many missed days at
work often results in termination. It is a vicious cycle. Businesses need to pay a living
wage; public policy needs to ensure that services and benefits are available and accessible
to those in need.
Even the notion of self-sufficiency and achieving the American Dream is called
into question; instead of promoting self-sufficiency, it might be more productive to create
better communities which could offer resources and support for single parents to share
the burden of child care, transportation, and housing. Instead of single family homes,
communities might be created where families would have access to several levels of
support; support from other single mothers sharing child care, support from a variety of
service providers, and perhaps sharing resources like computers and internet and
developing more convenient public transportation.
Public policy seems to support safety nets for those in need, but is fraught with
misunderstandings and misinformation. Public opinion often seems to imply that those
who are accessing social safety nets are lazy or stupid; I did not find this to be the case
but instead found the exact opposite. All of my participants wanted to work and take care
43


of their families. All of them were incredibly resilient, but feeling the stress of working
hard and yet making little progress in self-sufficiency or upward mobility. They wanted
meaningful work and took pride in their ability to do a job well.
44


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APPENDIX A
RESEARCH METHODS
This is a qualitative study designed to explore the perceptions of women around
life circumstances, including family, career, and community. Qualitative research
focuses on how people construct their worldshow they interpret their experiencesand
the meaning they attribute to those experiences (Merriam, 2009). The case study is an
empirical, evidence based approach to a problem (Lee, Michna, Brennestuhl, 2010), in
this case trying to achieve self-sufficiency and upward mobility. I interviewed three
single mothers who are currently or have in the recent past accessed the services and
resources at Mi Casa Opportunity Center and explained my project. All three participants
completed a 4-week job training customer service program, and had either found work or
were still looking for work. Using a case study methodology, I tried to understand career
development, poverty, and social safety nets from the perspective of those who are living
it, as well as barriers to finding or keeping a job and becoming self-sufficient.
According to Merriam (2009) Qualitative case studies share with other forms of
qualitative research the search for meaning and understanding, the researcher as the
primary instrument of data collection and analysisand inductive investigative strategy
and the end product being richly descriptivep.39). I aimed to understand the obstacles
and challenges that might be getting in the way of achieving upward mobility and job
promotion. The focus of this study was on understanding and determining meaning,
which made the qualitative method appropriate. According to Merriam (2009), in a
49


qualitative studythe researcher is the primary instrument for data collection and analysis
and I was the primary data collector, through a process of interviews and observations.
Research Questions
Mi Casa offers educational job training, so that on completion participants are
trained and ready to go to work. Mi Casa staff work with them to create resumescover
letters, practice their interview skills, helps them develop professional skills, and assists
them in understanding the expectations of employers. This author wanted to look at what
happens when women leave the program, ready to go to work. I wondered, will the jobs
they are able to find provide the upward mobility promised by the American dream?
Will they eventually become self-sufficient? Specifically, I wanted to look at:
Why did the participants leave the workforce, or were not been able to find work
in the first place?
What are some of the barriers that lead to unemployment and poverty?
What are the factors that enhance or hinder them as they join or return to the
workforce?
What career resources and opportunities do they still need in order to find upward
mobility?
Sampling
Mi Casa Opportunity Center is an agency dedicated to advancing family
prosperity and improving the economic position of those who currently live in poverty,
particularly targeting Latino families. In 2008, recognizing greater need and that
50


advancing self-sufficiency required involving the entire family, the agency expanded
their programming to include services for youth and families. The agency believes that
only by offering opportunities to pursue professionaleducational and entrepreneurial
advancement within a culturally responsive and supportive environment will the cycle
of poverty ultimately be brokenMi Casa Opportunity Center2012, p. 3).
Mi Casa offers programs to help its participants develop job skills and take
advantage of educational opportunities. The women themselves are focused on getting
jobs and transitioning off social supports and ultimately becoming self-sufficient. The
training programs are cost-free to participants, well-developed, and completed over a
relatively short time frame. Significant investment, in terms of money and human
capital, are invested in these programs. Women who completed the programs appear to
be professional, well-trained, and ready to go to work.
With help from the Mi Casa staff, a flyer was posted asking for volunteers. The
sample for this study were three volunteers, all single mothers who had participated in a
Mi Casa Opportunity Center career development program. Two of the participants were
Latina; the third participant describes herself as white. I met with the three women who
contacted me, explained the research proposal, and they agreed to participate in one-on-
one audio-recorded interviews with me for two to three months. I wanted to hear their
stories, and to understand their dreams and impediments, particularly in the area of
careers and self-sufficiency.
Once I had my participants, I developed a series of questions for use in semi-
stmctured interviews. These interviews were conducted over a period of three months.
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Participants selected the site for the interviews, and interviews were recorded on a tape
player.
Data Collection
Data collection was done by interviewing participants, interviewing and gathering
data from two staff members at Mi Casa, and gathering information from a policy expert
from the Colorado Center on Law and Policy. Three one to two-hour interviews, one
time per monthbetween September and Februarywere conducted with each of the
participants. Two Mi Casa staff members were interviewed for an hour, in order for the
researcher to understand the processthe resources currently availableand to look for
their perceptions of obstacles and resources that are not available as the women receive
job training and look for work.
Interviews
I collected information and narrative portraits of the participants, looking for both
resources and challenges, and reporting their emerging stories. The first interview lasted
from 45 minutes to an hour. I explained the project and obtained consent, and got
acquainted with each participant. The second interview lasted an hour to an hour and a
half, and was a semi-stmctured interview based on the questions I had developed. The
third interview was a follow-up interview; I allowed the participants to review their case
study to check for accuracy and to fill in any gaps or answer any questions I had after
transcribing the first two interviews.
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Initial questions asked about their family of origin, their school experiences, their
dreams, and their early work experiences. I learned about their perceptions of school,
how they came to be in their current situation, and how they gathered information about
expectations in their families. I identified resources and safety nets that they are aware of
and/or were taking advantage of, as well as any challenges to getting or keeping a job.
Themes that I explored in depth included life events that changed the trajectory of their
lives and often hurled them into their current living situation-poverty, homelessness,
joblessness. I identified the resources, challenges, and barriers to becoming self-
sufficient in the context of their world.
Mi Casa staff participated in a one-hour interview as well, assisting me in
understanding the process, the resources currently available, and also assessing their
perceptions of obstacles and resources that are not available as the women receive job
training and look for work. Two one-hour interviews were also conducted with a public
policy expert, to determine trends and possible future legislation surrounding these
issues.
Data Analysis
As the researcher, I relied on some of the elements of portraiture. Portraiture is a
method of inquiry that combines systematicempirical description with aesthetic
expression (Lawrence-Lightfoot and Davis1997, p. 3). Portraiture requires the
researcher to document the human experience by meeting with the participants in their
own natural setting. Lawrence-Lightfoot and Davis (1997) claim that portraiture is a
method framed by the traditions and values of the phenomenological paradigm, sharing
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many of the techniques, standards and goals of ethnography. But it pushes against the
constraints of those traditions and practices in its explicit effort to combine empirical and
aesthetic descriptionpp. 13-14).
Portraiture depends on examining human relationships and perspectives within
the organizational cultureHackman2002, p. 54). The researcher looks for
triangulation of common themes from a variety of sources (Lawrence-Lightfoot &
Davis, 1997). I interviewed and observed three women, essentially listening to several
stories, looking for the common themes around career development, barriers, and self-
sufficiency.
Interviews were recorded and transcribed. I transcribed all of the interviews
myselfin order to get that intimate familiarityMerriam2009) with the data. After
reading the transcription and creating a timeline of the transcripts, I then created case
studies, one for each participant. The case studies were loaded into a qualitative software
program, Dedoose, for coding purposes.
Coding
I examined the transcripts and the case studies, looking for the life events that
have contributed to the participants5 current state, the personal factors of each participant
that either restricts their self-sufficiency or encourages it, the factors that have shaped
their sense of self and their perceptions of their ability to reach their career goals and
ultimately self-sufficiency.
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Initially, during the first attempt at coding, I was looking for themes that
described a priori codes that were taken from my proposal, such as habitus, the
participants use of capitaland opportunities and barriers. As I read and re-read the
cases, and presented them to my colleagues and faculty mentors for input, other codes
began to emerge. I expanded my coding, based on other themes that were emerging, such
as life events that significantly altered the course of the participants life in some way
and also added some nuances to opportunities and barriers. I found that there were some
events that were challengingbut were not quite a barrierin that the challenge might
change and alleviate over time. For instance, dropping out of high school might be a
challenge, but if the participant was able to obtain a GED instead, this was then viewed as
a resource; therefore, it was not quite a barrier. On the other hand, a legal issue that
prevents the participant from being offered certain jobs was seen as a barrier, in that it
was a long term problem.
While each participant had unique challenges and barriers, there were some
common themes that began to emerge when the case studies were compared. Despite the
fact that all participants began working at an early age, usually around 14 or 15, they did
not experience promotion or upward mobility in those jobs. All of the participants had
quite a bit of work experience, and yet were initially being considered for low paying
jobs. Additionally all of the participants experienced issues around housing,
transportation, child care, low wage offerings, and complications from the criminal
justice system. Only one participant, who had been working for several months when we
met, had been promoted to a job with benefits and paid leave.
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Limitations and Benefits
There are some limitations with case study methodology, mainly in terms of
replication of the study. Participants have different stories to tell and different personal
experiences. Tms is a small sample size and was an in-depth exploration of the
participants personal lived experiences to dateas it related to careerjob trainingand
job search.
In qualitative research, the researcher5 s biases and personal experiences become a
part of the story. Hopefully, this is the story of the participants, but it is told by me as the
researcher. This methodology is appropriate to illuminate the specifics of their personal
challenges and opportunities, but I believe that their issues and experiences may be
shared by other single parents currently living in poverty but trying to become self-
sufficient. Hopefully, we can understand individual experiences and common successes,
in order to develop stronger social safety nets and programs to benefit the entire
community.
Interview Questions
1. Tell me about yourself.
2. Tell me about life in the family you grew up in.
3. Growing upwhat lessons did you leam about education? Careers and
Jobs? Self-sufficiency?
4. How did you learn what the expectations were for you?
5. What was the highest grade you completed in school?
6. When you think about school, describe what that was like for you.
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7. Did you consider yourself as smart, smarter, or not as smart as other kids
in your class?
8. What did you dream about doing when you grew up?
9. Tell me about the first job you ever had.
10. Tell me a bit about your work history.
11. Tell me what kind of jobs interest you now.
12. What kind of job training have you had?
13. What concerns you about finding/keeping a job?
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APPENDIX B
SAMPLE OF ANALYSES/ANALYTIC WORK
Initially, in developing the codes, I was looking for codes that supported my
theoretical framework and my research questions, codes that described social capital,
cultural capital, economic capital, barriers, and opportunities. As I transcribed the
interviews and wrote the case studies, I added some additional codes, describing some
nuances between barriers and challenges and between resources and opportunities. After
discussing the codes with my cohort and my faculty mentors, additional themes also
emerged, such as life changing events and life plans.
Examples of cultural capital were evident in statements likeshe [her mother]
was happy that I was older when Beth got pregnant at 18 and in Clovers case they
expected me to finish college.In Beth5s family, all of the children were taught
household chores, in case the boys didnt get married, but only the boys were taught how
to fix cars, a skill Beth thinks would have come in handy for a single mother.
All of the participants had family support, or social capital. Clover had quite a bit
of help from her family, including housing, transportation and child care. Both Beth and
Carla5 s mothers had provided housing during difficult times. All of the participants
talked about the ways they learned about specific safety nets through friends or family
members, indications of social capital at work. During the interviews, there was also
some lack of understanding about some safety nets, such as Section 8 housing and how to
go about getting that, proof that some kinds of social capital is not available or readily
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accessible. Beth was also taking advantage of financial counseling through Mi Casa, to
resolve former credit issues.
Habitus was demonstrated throughout the case studies as well. All three
participants were confident about finding work and had persevered through some tough
times, demonstrating resiliency. All of them began working at an early age at a variety of
jobs and had worked steadily. All three participants thought that they were good students
and recognized the value of education and job training in getting better jobs. Beth
recognized the impact of not having a GED on her job search. She also wanted that GED
to prove that she was capable and was taking steps to start the process. Carla worried
about the possibility of relapse and losing her child, but her resolve was impressive.
All three participants described themselves as smart, and believed they were
capable of getting good jobs, off'welfare5 and becoming self-sufficient. All three talked
about plans and dreams for their future.
TABLE A1
CODES AND DESCRIPTIONS USED IN ANALYSIS
A PRIORI CODES ABBREVIATION DESCRIPTION
HABITUS HAB Aspects of how the participant views herself; her beliefs, cultural values, habits, learned behaviors, family of origin, ideas about her own potential
CAPITAL CAP Social, Cultural, or economic capital; the power the participant has and how she access this power; how she leams about and connects with resources, skills, interests, family and friends
BARRIERS BAR Strong barriers to employment, self-sufficiency, and upward mobility; low paying jobs; lack of transporctation, housing or child care; lack of training or education; involvement or incarceration in the criminal justice system
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SAFETY NETS NET Social safety needs provided (or lacking) by state, local, or federal government
RESOURCES RES Resources that the participant does have or could access
OPPORTUNITIES OPP Opportunities that might contribute to self- sufficiency and upward mobility
ADDITONAL CODES
CHALLENGES CHA Things that were a challenge but not quite a barrier; pregnancy, lack of important resources like internet, kitchen or cooking equipment, lack of space
EMERGENT THEMES
LIFE EVENT LIFEV An event that altered the course of life for the participant
LIFE DREAMS LIFDR Dreams or plans for the future
TABLE A2
SAMPLES OF ANALYTIC EXCERPTS
DESCRIPTOR EXCERPT CODES
BETH She dropped out of high school when she became pregnant CAP, BAR, LIFEV
BETH She never got her GED because she has always had to work jobs that require shiftwork and she doesnt always know her work schedule in advance so it is hard to plan or find the time HAB, CAP, BAR
CARLA but I dont have internet at home BAR
BETH She believes that her job search took more time because many jobs require a GED HAB, BAR
BETH She had the graveyard shift, it is very quiet and scary, its....you never know what you are going to get, whos going to come in. HAB, CHA, BAR
BETH Getting her kids to school and making sure they did homework was hard because if I wasnt there to tell them, its amazing, its crazy because out there [when they lived in Thornton] I had to tell them all the time, CHA
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CARLA If I had a car, I was telling someone yesterday, if I had a car, I would need for nothing BAR, CAP
CARLA My daughter was a year, two years, and the other one was 3 months old when he went to prison the first time. BAR, CHA
CARLA My check wasnt making it to put food on the table, not for four kids BAR
BETH At Wal-mart, Beth had her job, in addition to food stamps and Medicaid, but then she got off Medicaid, and then when she was fired, she and the kids had no insurance. NET, BAR
BETH clean house, they were taught to wash dishes, clothes and things like that CAP, RES
CLOVER in exchange she pays rent by giving them her food stamps to help with the family budget. NET, RES, CAP
CLOVER They teach you everything you need to know about finding a job RES,HAB
CARLA I have a lot of experience in different jobs but it has been so long ago RES, HAB, CHA
CLOVER She wants to be a good mother, and learned a lot about newborns from WIC [Women Infant child] subsidy. Her son is still on WIC but she is not because she is no longer pregnant or breast feeding NET, RES
BETH She credits Mi Casa with turning her life around RES, OPP, HAB
BETH Head Frommagiere (Maitre d' Fromage) which is a job that provides benefits like paid vacation and sick leave OPP
CARLA In 2009, Carla moved to Denver and in with her mom. She spent a year and a half not working, getting healthyand getting off drugs. CAP, OPP, RES
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CARLA if I stay there the 2 years, I can either get a car from them OPP, BAR
CARLA when you leave there you could have a thousand (dollars) or two OPP, RES, CHA
CLOVER Clover recently got enrolled in college OPP, CAP
BETH She and the kids lived with her ex-husband so that they could share the rent but that didnt work out very well CAP
CARLA TANF and food stamps and has a child care subsidy NET
CLOVER She was required to go to Mi Casa to keep her full benefits, like food stamps and TANF CAP, NET
CLOVER her son is in full-time child care (CCCAP) NET
CARLA She is on TANF and food stamps and has a child care subsidy (CCCAP) NET
CLOVER She has an RTD pass, which she uses if she can't get her parents to take her RES, CAP
CLOVER Currently Clover is on food stamps, TANF, and child care, and her son gets WIC until he is 5 years old NET
CARLA but no one will hire her, she thinks because she has a felony for child endangerment even thought it was almost 10 years ago BAR, LIFEV
CARLA She dropped out of high school CAP, BAR, LIFEV
CARLA My daughter was a year, two years, and the other one was 3 months old when he went to prison the first time. CAP, LIFEV, BAR
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BETH she and her Kids became homeless for a time BAR, CAP, LIFEV
CARLA When I enrolled, my mom was going to have my sister pick me up after she got off work and she just wouldntshe would forget to pick me up... so there was a couple of times I got rides and it didnt go very well. Hah. I would end up having to fight men off, and stuff like that, so I just had to drop out. BAR, CAP
BETH when she was fired, she and the kids had no insurance BAR, CAP
CLOVER I think there is a 9 page waiting list for Warren Village NET, BAR, RES
CLOVER To take her son to child care, it is two buses, its the 30 and the 16 up thereand if I had to pick him up itd be the 16 over to Sheridanthe 51 down to 1,walk to Sheridan and Warren to day care, pick him up, walk back to Sheridan, take the 50 BAR
CARLA I ended up doing double shifts and days would go by and I didnt even see my kids BAR
CLOVER After the man found out she was pregnant though, he started "backing off, saw him [her son] 4 times, and then got arrested again. He got arrested shortly after they found out [that she was pregnant] For something he didnt do up in Adams county. Had a court date of august 1 and then I never heard from him. And hed only seen his son 4 times. And he wouldnt answer my phone callstext messages. BAR, LIFEV, CAP
CLOVER She conducts her social life on Mocospace, similar to facebook and myspace put together. She is currently dating a guy on this sitebut she hasnt met him because he lives in Windsorbut he doesnt have gas money yet. But she is confident that he is going to get the gas money and come and visit her and that he is going to support her eventually. Although she hasnt met him in personthey text and message constantly. CAP
CARLA I dont see myself in Section 8 housing; I dont want to live on welfare HAB
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APPENDIX C
PROSPECTUS/PROPOSAL: PROBLEM STATEMENT & REVIEW
no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty
President Barack Obama, 2014 State of the Union Address
INTRODUCTION
Growing up, I often heard the United States referred to as the Land of
Opportunity. We were taught in school about the American Dream, which is defined as a
national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the
opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through
hard work. I believed that the United States was a great county with immense wealth,
and that if you worked hard, you would be successful. The United States is a great
country with untold wealth for many; but there are many more who do not experience
equal opportunity and who live in extreme poverty. The gap between the rich and the
poor in the United State has expanded yearly for the past two decades; 20% of wealthy
Americans hold 85% of the wealth in the United States. Forty percent of Americans hold
a mere .3% of the wealth in this country (Pressman & Scott, 2009). Sommeiller and
Price (2014) contend that this income gap has widened in all 50 states. This widening
gap points out that while some in the United States do have plentyan even larger
number of people do noteven in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
This project will look at the derimtions of poverty, using both economic and
material measures. I will also explore the lack of other necessary resources that
contribute to poverty. I will investigate the social and cultural capital that the working
poor may have access to, and the capital they do not have access to. I will look at some
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of the barriers and challenges faced by those who live below the poverty line, as well as
the social safety nets and opportunities that they may have.
Problem of Practice
Defining poverty is difficult. Objective or etic definitions equate poverty with
living below a certain economic bracket. The main measure is materiar, (Langille-
Hoppe, Gonzalez, Maxey, & Terrell, 2010, p 126). The current Federal guideline across
the United States, established by the Department of Health and Human Services, of
poverty for a family of four is an income level below $23,550 (Federal Register, 2013),
based on poverty thresholds. But poverty is more than just a lack of income or a lack of
wealth. A poverty threshold represents basic needs: food, clothing, shelter, utilities and
small amount for other needs such as transportation, personal care, household supplies
(Short, Iceland and Dalaker, 2002). Medical Students or graduate students might qualify
as poor, because they are living on little or no income. On the other hand, they often
have resources other than income that keep them from living in poverty.
In 2011, it was estimated that 42.6 milliion Americans live in poverty, and that
one-third of these are children (United States Census Bureau, 2012). Poverty can be
short-lived, temporary or chronic. Exactly how many years constitute chronic poverty is
a subject of some debate, but Hulme and Shepherd (2003) define it as poverty which has
been ongoing for more than five years. Research demonstrates that those who are poor
and remain poor for an extended period of time have a high probability of remaining poor
(Corcoran, 1995; Yaqub, 2000). People who are poor for most of the course of their lives
also have a high probability of passing on poverty to the next generation (Hulme &
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Shepherd, 2003). The generational cycle of poverty... was well known: poor parents
raise children with poor resources and abilitieswho therefore cant make it out of
poverty and thus raise their own children with the same problemsTough2009, p. 38.)
There are two basic types of poverty measures, absolute measures and relative
measures. Absolute measures refer to the inability to meet basic survival needs, such as
foodclothing and housing. Relative measures are used to describe peoples beliefs about
the amount of money needed to live within a society which rises as standards of living
rise (Iceland, 2012, p.21). Both of these are valid measures, and both need to be
considered when looking at poverty.
Capitalism and the economic climate drive growth and inequality in America;
employers seeking to maximize profit may offer lower wages; in times of recession,
workers may get laid off during downsizing (Iceland2012). But it is social
stratification across social groups that determines who becomes poor^ (Iceland, 2012, p.
143).
There are many broader implications of poverty; those without adequate income
are also often relegated to the poorest communities where resources and opportunities are
stretched to the limit, and therefore there is a smaller chance for those living there to
develop the necessary skills or get the education needed to reverse the cycle of poverty
and provide upward mobility for its residents.
"Within poor neighborhoods, research has generally demonstrated that the
relationship between neighborhood disadvantage and crime is quite strong. Other
empirical research ties neighborhood disadvantage/disorganization to early sexual
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activity, low educational attainment, dropping out of school, violence, affiliation
with deviant peersand a medley of anti-social behaviorsHaney2007, p. 972).
While not all poor neighborhoods suffer the same adverse conditions, it is still
likely that there are gaps and barriers in poorer communities that prevent opportunities
for upward mobility.
New thinking about poverty expands its definition from simple economics to a
wider view; can those in poorer situations access necessary capital, in terms of social
capital and cultural capital? Are they more vulnerable and feeling more powerless to
improve their situation? In addition to this, the inequality of the situation brings about
additional concerns for public policy makers (Shaffer, 2001).
Broader Implications
There is a growing concern among those in public policy and academic circles
that an even greater number of Americans are vulnerable economically; current factors
that may point to this include weakening job security; seriously eroded social safety
netsthe flattening or stagnation of incomes; and the fact that consumer debt has
reached record levels (Sandoval, Rank and Hirschl, 2009, p 717).
According to Edelman (2012)the American economy has changed radically
over the last forty years including the fact that wages have remained stagnate (p. 32).
The income gap results in higher wages for those at the top, but those at the bottom are
even more disadvantaged, given the reality of low paying jobs. Half the jobs in this
country pay less than $34,000 per year, which would put a family of four below the
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poverty line (Edelman, 2012). According to Mishel, Bivens, Gould & Shierholz (2012),
wages of middle class Americans are lower than they have been in over a decade. There
is also evidence that Americans largely end up where they started out on the economic
ladderand the same is true for their childrenMishel et al2012, p. 6). Despite the
fact that the United States has virtually the highest GNP per capita in the world, it has
higher levels of both absolute and relative poverty than other rich countries in Northern
and Western EuropeIceland2012, p. 69).
For two parent families, some of the effects of lower wages can be mitigated by
the fact that both parents work and contribute to household expenses. According to
Iceland (2012) Single parent families tend to be considerably more vulnerable to
economic hardship than married couple familiesp.145). Ir jobs dont pay enough to
live on, then how can the working poor ever become self-sufficient? Also, poor families
have less political voiceresulting in policies and institutional structures that may not
work for them. Coupled with that, women face even more obstacles in terms of gender
discrimination and income. A woman still earns only 77 percent of what a man earns
(Edelman, 2013, p. 36). Women are far more likely to be the head of the single parent
households (Iceland, 2012) yet they are more likely to earn less money and have fewer
resources than a man.
Generally, poverty refers to a lack of money, but it also involves other types of
material deprivation. Those without internet may lose out on jobs where the application
is online. Those without telephones may not have a means for a prospective employer to
contact them in a timely fasmon. Without a car, especially in a big city, transportation
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can be onerous and most definitely requires additional time and effort to get to work and
the child care center.
State and federal governments have long tried to develop social safety nets to
provide assistance to those in need. According to Oberg and AgaThe social safety net
is a metaphor for external supports that have been designed to minimize the risk and to
protect the child as the family copes with the multiple risk factors associated with
poverty2010, p. 237). A social safety net provided to a family might be cash provided
by Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) or food stamps. It might be
temporary shelters for the homeless, or an educational program like Head Start which is
meant to alleviate some of the negative effects of poverty.
The Criminal Justice System
Those who live in poverty and have been adjudicated in the criminal justice
system find this a severe impediment to finding work, much less upward mobility. The
criminal justice system is often overly harsh on those in poorer neighborhoods. Without
resources, education, and with few prospects, arrests are high, especially among young
men of color. Sociologist have frequently observed that governments use punishment
primarily as a tool of social control, and thus the extent or severity of punishment is often
unrelated to actual crime patterns (Alexander2012, p. 6). The United States has a
higher incarceration rate than other industrialized countries (Tonry, 2004) and the rate is
particularly high among persons of color (Alexander2012). Felons cannot get a drivers
license; so finding work can be problematic. Undocumented immigrants are viewed by
many as illegal aliens and therefore seen as criminals deserving of deportation or
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worse; drug addicts who need treatment are often punished in the criminal justice system
instead (Alexander, 2012). And while everyone is entitled to legal representation, the
quality and the information may vary; a defendant may pay their debt to societybut there
are collateral consequences (Alexander2012, p.143) that may follow them for many
years.
Implications in Colorado
The state of Colorado has experienced the same economic problems that have
troubled the rest of our country in recent years, in terms of declining wages and job
opportunities and the widening income gap. Colorado has established a self-sufficiency
standard, which is defined as the income needed, by family type and size, to be self-
sufficient, without public or private assistance. According to Pearce (2011), the self-
sufficiency standard is measure of economic security that is based on the costs of the
basic needs for working families: housing, child care, food, health care, transportation,
and miscellaneous items, as well as the cost of taxes and the impact of tax credits. As
Colorado recovers from its recent economic downturn, long-term economic prosperity
will require responsible planning that puts all Coloradans on the path to self-sufficiency
(Pearce, 2011,executive summary).
The self-sufficiency standard for Colorado takes into account the size of the
family and the geographical location of the family within the state of Colorado.
According to Colorados self-sufficiency standardon average a single person must make
$8.56 an hour, or $17,843 annually, to be self-sufficient; this is greater than the current
minimum wage requirement in Colorado of $7.36 an hour. One parent supporting two
children needs to make $17.76 an hour, or nearly $44,000 annually, to be self-sufficient.
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The Cliff Effect
Social safety nets were created to give assistance to those in need, but they can be
pulled awayoften abruptlyas people try to improve their situation. Many citizens in
Colorado suffer from what is known as the cliff effect (Dinah, Chau, & Cauthen, 2007).
The cliff effect is the point at which a person or family comes to the financial cliff and
goes over; the wage earner gets a promotion and a raise, and then loses eligibility for the
federal and/or state social safety net s/he is currently receiving, leaving them with a lower
total income. For instance, a raise from a $10 an hour job to a $12 an hour job might be
enough to cause them to lose their child care subsidy. The two dollar raise isnt enough
to cover the cost of the child care. This creates a system of dependence; some parents
might find lower paying jobs rather than take a raise or a promotion, to avoid losing tneir
social safety net eligibility, and so they remain dependent on social subsidies.
The Promise Neighborhood Grant
The Obama administration proposed a project, called the Promise Neighborhood
Grant, which would provide dollars to nonprofits and universities in 20 disadvantaged
communities, so that they could develop appropriate social safety nets to counteract the
effects of poverty (Toch, 2010). The grant envisions that children who will grow up in
neighborhoods where there is family and community support, with adequate resources in
the community to enable children to get an education, find work, and in general rise
above the poverty level and become self-sufficient.
In Colorado, the disadvantaged neighborhood identified as an appropriate region
which could benefit from this grant money is known as the Northwest Promise
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Neighborhood, and is an area of Denver whose borders are from 52nd avenue to 6th
Avenue and from 1-25 to Sheridan. This Northwest Promise Neighborhood (NWPN) has
a population of 70,000 people, and nearly 17,000 of them live below the poverty
threshold. The children from this neighborhood attend Denver Public Schools, where
80% of the children live in poverty. The purpose of the grant was to cover services from
cradle to career to provide resources and ensure the success of families. According to
Zion, 'The most significant challenge in the NWPN is a lack of capacity on the part of
agencies in the area to link the continuum of services from cradle to career and to
effectively reach out to family and community members to ensure access to services (p.
3).There are numerous resources and agenciesor safety netsproviding services in the
neighborhood, but there is often inadequate funding and personnel to meet the needs of
this large, diverse community (Zion, 2012). Although this grant was not funded in the
initial offering, this research proposal will explore possible gaps and barriers in this
neighborhood, to give more leverage to the grant in the future.
Mi Casa Opportunity Center is one agency providing services and resources to
those living the NWPN. Although Mi Casa Opportunity Center is not located in the
NWPNit is committed to improving the lives of those who do, and it runs after school
programs and provides family services in NWPN neighborhood schools. Mi Casa was
established in 1976 by eight Head Start mothers who wanted a safe place where women
could get education and job training, support for the job search process, and resources for
the entire family. According to the organizations websiteMi Casas mission is to
advance the economic success of Latino families
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(http:"www.micasaresourcecenter+org.Mi Casa focuses its resources in three main
areas:
Career Development, which is a practical pathway for workers to gain
employment and overcome barriers to a successful career;
Business Development, which is designed to help entrepreneurs establish their
own businesses and;
Youth and Family programs, which offer out-of-school enrichment experiences to
middle and high school youth.
Conceptual Framework
To guide my thinking, I reviewed the concepts of cultural, social and economic
capital, initially developed by Pierre Bourdieu, a French sociologist. The three types of
capital are intertwined and together constitute differentiation and distribution of
resources in societyZembylas2007, p.449). The concept of class in the United States
is often based on financial accumulation. Most Americans consider themselves to be in
the middle class, based on their economic position. However, Bourdieu expanded the
concept of capital to encompass not only financial resources, but how people use capital
to compete for power and resources (Allen, 2011). Bourdieu named three types of
capital: social capital, which looks at connections to others; economic capital, which
explores the financial situation; and cultural capital, which is what one brings to the table,
in terms of who they are. Cultural capital refers to the values and ideas that have been
passed down from generation to generation, and the cultural and linguistic resources
which frames how each of us views our world.
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Bourdieu considers three types of cultural capital: embodied (ones sense of
culture, traditions, norms), objectified (things that one owns), and institutionalized
(recognition of particular tastesnormsor values within institutions such as schools)
(Winkle-Wagner2010, p. 7). This cultural capital is acquired either through ones
family of originor from educational settings. Implicit in this is that ones family of
origin has a huge impact on ones social status or class. Thusthose with a higher social
status have more cultural and social capital, and more social standing, or power.
Cultural capital can be grasped as those culturally based resources that can act as
a form of capitalWinkle-Wagner2010, p. 5). According to Winkle-Wagnerthese
resources included things such as awareness of ones own cultureknowledge about
schools, and preferences in food, music, and art. These resources are used in social
settings to develop ones social power. It speaks to the individuals skillsabilitiesand
preferencesand indicates ones class position.
Bourdieu sees social capital as the sum of resources that can be accessed by
individuals or groups because of their social connections (ZhangDeBloiseDeniger&
Kamanzi2008, p. 98). Bourdieu5 s theory allows us a lens to think about and attempt to
understand how things such as raceethnicityand religion impacts ones thinking and
values, how it connects one to the larger community, and how the larger community
influences the decisions one makes about the use of resources. Understanding the
community of the participants within the study helps to understand how one interacts
with others and just how much help one can depend on within that community and within
their own informal social networks. This speaks to the actual or potential power one can
access because of their connections and interactions with others.
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Bourdieu recognized the connection between economic position and educational
opportunities; he understood how lack of opportunity perpetuated "unequal social
conditionsWinkle-Wagner2010, p. 4). Overallthe amount of social capital that one
possesses depends on (1)the size of network connections that the individual can
effectively mobilize and (2) the amount and type(s) of capital (e.g.economiccultural
or symbolic) possessed by each of those to whom he or she is relatedBourdieu1986
p. 249). According to Carpiano (2006), we must consider the social networks, the actual
and potential resources that belong to that networkand the individuals ability to access
those resources when studying the effect and use of social safety nets within the
community. Social capital can be a positive or negative force; it can influence some to
access resources and exclude others from accessing those same resources within a
community. Social safety nets may be availablebut it is the individuals ability to use
them that is at the heart of the idea of social capital.
Looking at the culture of the community within the larger Northwest Promise
neighborhood, it is important to understand the views and needs of the participants.
Social capital encompasses family, friends, neighbors; these are important assets that can
be relied upon in times of need. Stephens (2008) suggests that poorer neighborhoods
may have more local resources, and might be more adept at networking because they are
poor. According to Woolcock and Narayan (2000), one defining feature of being poor is
that one may be excluded from certain social networks that can be used to secure jobs and
obtain decent housing. It will be important to look at the community and whether or not
the participants are included or excluded from accessing the available resources.
Developing appropriate safety nets requires one to understand the perspective of those in
75


the community, as they are the ones to define what their needs are, and how they want
their needs to be met.
Bourdieu5s concept of habitus is a constmct that helps one understand human
memory and ones own history. It refers to ones view of the worldand assumes that
some things are taken for granted, or that there are certain unconscious mles that one
follows. According to Collet (2009) For Bourdieueach social agent incorporates the
structure of the social world that surrounds him/her through habitus (p.424). Habitus
refers to ones perception of ones own potential. In other words, our view of our own
promise. Capital and habitus are connected; as Dumais (2002) statesIt is necessary to
consider both one's resources (capital) and the orientation one has toward using those
resources (habitus)p. 45).
Overall,I will be listening to the participants in my study, trying to understand the
community in which they live, what they view as their opportunities, resources and
challenges. I would like to identify not only gaps in social safety nets, but also to
understand barriers in the individuals ability to use the resources that are available. I
hope to understand their motivation for work and their choices surrounding work and
family, and how they use their social and cultural capital within the community, and how
they develop motivation for self-sufficiency.
Significance of Project
Considering, the widening gap in wealth, and the high Colorado self-sufficiency
standard, it is important to understand the depth and breadth of poverty in the Northwest
Promise Neighborhood. With limited dollars and growing numbers of those who need
76


help, it is imperative to look at available resources, or social safety nets, and ensuring that
the safety nets do provide the support necessary to provide opportunities for upward
mobility and self-sufficiency.
These findings could provide insight into creating more effective policies and
social supports for families who are trying to climb out of poverty. Often, the jobs
available to these families are minimum wage and, consequently, not enough to
adequately support families. Social safety nets provided by federal, state and local
governments are often not enoughor structured in a way that families can maximize
earnings.
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Full Text

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WHY IS IT SO HARD? POVERTY, SELF SUFFICIENCY, AND UPWARD MOBILITY by TERRI B. BLEVINS B A. Univer si ty of Oklahoma, 1977 M.A. University of Iowa, 1994 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado Denver in partial fulfillment Of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education Educational Leadership and Equity Program 2014

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ii This thesis for the Doctor of Education degree by Terri B. Blevins Has been approved for the Educational Leadership and Equity Program By Shelley Zion Chair Alan Davis, Advisor Carol Lay May 2, 2014

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iii Blevins, Terri (EdD, Educational Leadership and Equity) Why Is It So Hard? Poverty, Self sufficiency, and Upward Mobility Thesis directed by Shelley Zion, Executive D irector ABSTRACT This exploratory study examined the self sufficiency and upward mobility prospects of recently out of work women who had completed a job training program. Using a case study methodology, I investigated the challenges and barriers to obtaining steady employment that leads to self sufficiency for three participants. The data were analyzed to identify the resources, social safety nets and opportunities of the participants, as well as the obstacles and challenges to becoming self sufficient. The participants in this study were experiencing significant obstacles to becoming self sufficient, including low wage offerings barriers to affordable child care and accessible public transportation The participants found it difficult to provide for more than minimal basic needs or to save money for a rainy day; financial disasters of even small proportions could quickly spin them back into poverty. These findings may provide insight into creating more effective policies and social sup ports for families who are trying to climb out of poverty. Often, the jobs available to these families pay minimum wage and not enough to adequately support families. Child care subsidies may be available, but centers should offer longer hours or weekend care. Public transportation is not ideal; those without cars need longer to get to work because of bus schedules and routes. Social safety nets provided by federal, state and local governments are often not enough, or not structured in a way that famil ies can maximize earnings. The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication. Approved: Shelley Zion

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iv WHY IS IT SO HARD? POVERTY, SELF SUFFICIENCY, AND UPWARD MOBILITY SYNOPSIS Fifty years ago, President Johnson declared a war on poverty. Strategies were developed and implemented to provide public assistance to those in need. A number of initiatives including food stamps, Medicaid, and Head Start programs were developed and sti ll exist to provide support and alleviate some of the symptoms of poverty. The American economy has undergone some significant changes as well. Wages have not risen, except for those at the very top. Consumer debt has risen and is at an all time high. In addition to changes in the economy, family structures have changed. There has been a significant increase in families headed by single women. Family homelessness is up. One third of those who live in poverty are children. Poverty is often defined by strictly economic measures; however, this is not a true picture of poverty. Federal guidelines have established a poverty threshold for families; a family of four that makes less than $23,000 is considered poor. Self sufficiency refers to the amount of m transportation, food, child care, utilities, and personal care expenses. The self sufficiency level for a family of four is closer to $45,000, well above the poverty threshold established by the government. There are other factors as well that contribute to poverty besides material measures. Lack of internet might mean not being able to apply for a job if the application

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v is strictly online. Lack of a phone might mean a prospective employer cannot contact the Most people who live in poverty do so for a short time. A smaller number may experience chronic po verty, which lasts longer than five years (Hulme and Shepherd, 2003). Those who do experience chronic poverty are likely to remain poor ( Corcoran, 1995; Yaqub, 2000 ). And those who remain poor are more likely to raise children that grow up to live in pov erty. Those who live in poorer neighborhoods have fewer resources, as well. Poorer neighborhoods are more likely to experience higher crime rates and poorer schools, leaving children without the necessary skills or education to rise above poverty (Haney, 2007). Upward mobility is defined as the movement of an individual or a social group to a position of higher status, and those who live in poverty are less likely to find ways of achieving self sufficiency or upward mobility. This study was a qualitative study that examined the lives of women who had recently completed a job training program at Mi Casa Opportunity Center in Denver, Colorado. The three women were either looking for work or had recently obtained work. Mi Casa provides job training and soc ial support to women who are out of work. The Center provides job skills, opportunities to network with local industry, and on going job coaching to participants. Three women, all single mothers, volunteered for my study, sharing their story around family career, and community. I looked at challenges, opportunities, barriers,

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vi and resources for each of these women in finding and keeping a job as they also cared for their family. l (financial resources), social capital (connections to other people), and cultural capital (ideas and values passed down from their families or from schools). I wanted to understand how and when the participants were able to access not just economic capi tal, but social and cultural capital to obtain what they needed for their families. I also habitus natural ways of thinking and behaving (Cockerham & Hinote, 2009). I interview ed each woman over the course of four months, asking questions about early family life, education, dreams, early job history, and challenges and opportunities in the current job market. Each interview was transcribed and written up as a case study. While each woman had her own unique story, some themes began to emerge during the interviews. The women learned about available social supports through friends and family members. All of them expressed a desire to get off of welfare. Each woman had a child or children that they loved and wanted to care for, but child care could be a problem. If the woman had the CCCAP subsidy, then rules and restrictions would limit the opportunities for enough work hours. Jobs that were available to them were more likely to b e in big box stores with shift work requirements; shifts in the evening or on weekends were not possible unless they had some family support, as child care centers are not open during these hours.

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vii Transportation was another issue; not having a car meant th at the woman had to use the public transit system. This could add significant travel time to get a child to daycare or school and then get to the work site. Also, travel was dependent on bus schedules and routes; often the bus stop did not take them to t he doorstep of school, daycare, or work, which meant additional walking time. Having a car, though, meant paying for upkeep and maintenance, a cost that could be prohibitive on a minimum wage job. Housing was often cramped and not located near possible wo rk opportunities. The criminal justice system was another big impediment to self sufficiency. Felony records can negatively impact job prospects long after the event. Also, if fathers either emotionally or financially. Lack of education frequently means low wage job opportunities. Conversely, even a small raise can bring a family to a financial cliff; a family that has a childcare safety net might lose that subsidy with a raise. The ra ise itself is not enough to cover child care expenses and so the family continues to struggle. Social safety nets are also contentious among lawmakers; small reductions in food stamps, for instance, means less food and more reliance on private food banks to make ends meet. My women participants experienced a reduction in food stamps, higher child care costs, and a loss of Medicaid even with a part time job. Misinformation around career development, Section 8 housing, and safety net requirements was evid ent among my participants. Public opinion around poverty is also frequently misinformed; many perceive families using social safety nets to be lazy or

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viii stupid. I did not find this to be the case; all of my participants wanted to work, and they wanted to w ork at jobs that would bring personal satisfaction and allow them to care for their families. All three participants began working at an early age in jobs that I consider to be hard and physically demanding and often scary. They all took pride in their a bility to do a job well.

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ix ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to thank Dr. Shelley Zion and Dr. Alan Davis for the time spent mentoring, reading and discuss ing my project with me, and giving me feedback. You have made a very daunting project seem possible and I am so very grateful for your support. I would like to thank Carol Lay for always believing in me and supporting me. Thank you for discussing questions, for listening to my endless chatter about my project, and for being interested in it and for feeding me delicious meals Thank you for sharing your family with me, I love them all. I wo uld like to thank Michael Abr a m o vitz for his editing skills and his input into this project You challenge me to think more deeply about everything. Michael, you are the smartest person I know and I am so very thankful that you are also my friend. Many thanks to my cohort, without you I would never have made it You guys rock Thanks to Mi Casa for opening your doors to me You are doing really important work in the community, and I am glad that I could participate in that work in some small way. Many many thanks to Maureen Garrity, my mentor and my friend Without you I would never have started this journey, and without you I would never have finished. Thanks to my family and friends for your encouragement and support through this process. I am a very lucky woman!

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x Lastly, many thanks and much admiration to Clover, Carla, and Beth you know who you are I have been so i nspired by your stories, and I am honored t hat you shared them with me.

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xi DEDICATION In memory of my mother, Joan Sims Bell. This project is dedicated to my loved ones I missed birthdays, holidays, and a lot of time with you to complete this project and it was a high price for me Thanks for understanding the importance of my work. To my husband, Lynn, thank you for always supporting my dreams and for thinking that I am smart enough to do this. I am glad to have a partner who has always been such a believer! Your love means the world t o me. Thanks to my dad, ER Bell, who was there when I was born and has been there for me every day since then. Thanks for knowing that girls can do anything and making sur e I knew it too Also, thanks for napping so I could write, and asking at least once a week, are you still working on that paper? To my children, Ben and Lyndsey, I consider being your mom my most important work and my greatest blessing. I am so proud of both of yo u! And to Macy, ER, Eli, Grayson and Adi Grace (and those who are yet to come), dream big, follow your heart and know that Mimi love s you!

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xii TABLE O F CONTENTS CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION .. Problem of Poverty 2 R ... .. .. Conceptual Framework ... .. II. METHODOLOG Y ... 1 4 III. FINDINGS ... ... 7 Case Studies ..17 Analysis ... ... 31 Systemic Barriers . 3 4 40 5 APPENDIX A: Research Methodology 4 9 B: Samples of Analysis/Analytic Work .. 5 8 C: Problem Statement and Literature Review 64

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xiii TABLES Table 1.1 Example of the Cliff Effect 21

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1 CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION Growing up, I often heard the United States referred to as the Land of Opportunity. We were taught in school about the American Dream, a set of ideals embraced by this country which includes the opportunity for prosperity and success and upward social mobility achieved through hard work and perseverance. I believed that the United States was a great county with immense wealth, and that if you worked hard, you would be successful. In fact, the United States is a great country with wealth for many; but also with many more without such opportunity and who live in extreme poverty. The gap between the rich and the poor in the United State has expanded every year for the past two decades; 20% of wealthy Americans h old 85% of the wealth in the United States; Sommeiller and Price (2014) contend that this income gap has widened in all 50 states. This widening gap illustrates that while some in the United States do have more than 4 6 million people do not ev en in one of the wealthiest countries in the world ( United States Census Bureau, 2012 ) Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson recognized the impact of poverty on this great nation, and began to implement a series of initiatives to combat poverty. In t he state of the union address in 1964 Johnson stated that the federal government must collaborate with state and local governments on programs to assist those experiencing both temporary and long term poverty. In his speech, Johnson said: Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical c are and housing, in a lack of

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2 (Peters and Wooley, 1999 ). Since that time, a number of initiatives were created that have helped and are still in place: for instance, f ood stamps, Medicaid, Medicare ( Edelman 2012). Nevertheless poverty continues to exist; there is still a lot of work to be done. As the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen, family homelessness is also up, increasing nearly 20 percent between 2007 and 2010 (Edelman, 2012, p. 25). In the last 40 years, both the economy and the family structure have changed; wages have not gone up, there was a significant period of economic downturn beginning in 2008, and there has been substantial increase in families headed by single mothers (Edelman, 2012). I wanted to investigate the very personal stories of women trying to move out of poverty and achieve self sufficiency. This project looked at the definitions of poverty, using both economic and relative measures. I also explored some of the ins titutional barriers that contribute to continued poverty. I investigated the social and cultural capital that the working poor may have access to, and the capital they do not have access to. I looked at some of the barriers and challenges faced by those who live below the poverty line, as well as the social safety nets and opportunities that they may have. The Problem o f Poverty Defining poverty is difficult. Often, poverty is assessed by a strictly economic, i.e. material measure. The current US Federal guideline of poverty, established by the Department of Health and Human Services, for a family of four is an income level below

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3 $23,550 (Federal Register, 2013) based on poverty thresholds This threshold represents the estimated cost of obtaining a minimum level of food, clothing, shelter, utilities and small amount s for other needs such as transportation, personal care, household supplies (Short, Iceland and Dalaker, 2002). But poverty is more than just a lack of income or a lack of wealth. Other types of capital and resources may be available and of great value to some. For instance, m edical s tudents or graduate students might qualify as poor because they are living on little or no income. On the other hand, they often have resources other than income that keep them from living in poverty. In 2011, it was estimated that 46. 5 million Americans live in poverty, and that one third of these are children (United States Census Bureau, 2012). Poverty can be short lived, temporary or chronic. Exactly how many years constitute chronic poverty is a subject of some debate, but Hulme and Shepherd (2003) suggest that chronic poverty is defined as poverty lasting for more than five years. Most people will experience poverty for only a short period However, r esearch demonstrates that those who are po or and remain poor for an extended period of time have a high probability of remaining poor (Corcoran, 1995; Yaqub, 2000). People who are poor for most of the course of their lives also have a high probability of passing on poverty to the next generation (Hulme & poverty and thus raise their own children with th p. 38). Poverty has many ramifications ; those without adequate income s reside in the poorest communities where resources and opportunities are stretched to the limit Those living in such communities have a smaller chance to develop the necessary skills or get

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4 the education needed to reverse the cycle of poverty In poorer neighborhoods, more violence, poorer schools, and few resources are more typical (Haney, 2007) While not all poor neighborhoods suffer the se unfavorable conditions, it is still likely that in poorer communities there are gaps and barriers to better jobs and upward mobility. New thinking about poverty expands its definition from simple economics to a wider view C an those in poorer situations access other forms of capital, including social capital (networks and connections to people) and cultural capital ( skills and knowledge ? Are they more vulnerable and more powerless to improve their situation ? Generally, poverty refers to a lack of money, but it also involves other types of material deprivation. For instance, t hose without supportive social connections cannot fall back on fami ly and friends if a child is sick and cannot attend day care They may be less likely to learn about job openings or have a positive recommendation from an employer without the necessary social or cultural capital. They may not understand how to navigate the college admissions process or the criminal system. There are many misperceptions surrounding poverty. Poverty is often viewed as the result of some failing on the part of the individual who lives in poverty such as the lack of a work ethic or some other value. I have heard even my own friends say that people should quit taking government handouts and just get a job. Iceland found that m ore affluent people were more likely to believe that the poo r people themselves were 2012, p. 70). There are some individual aspects that contribute to poverty; family background and educational level, for example. But there are also institutional barriers, and public policies that contribute to growing poverty in a nation.

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5 Upward mobility is defined as the movement of an individual or a social group to a position of higher economic status. Our system of capitalism, however, often impede s this upward mobility. Karl Marx described the conflict between classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, as one of the ways economic systems produce inequality. The bourgeoisie focus on keeping profit for the company high while keeping the salaries of the proletariat low (Iceland, 2 012). He saw this as a means of social stratification or creating classes in our society. Max Weber expanded this concept to include not just class, but communities and political power as additional factors that create economic inequality. According t o Iceland (2012) who money enables tho se who have it to retain their higher economic status through prestigious educations which may lead to better paying jobs and this continues throughout the generations T hose who are disadvantaged continue to experience barriers at different stages that make upward mobility and better opportunities more difficult. Many in public policy and academic circles are concerned that greater number s of Americ ans are vulnerable economically. Factors include weakening job s ecurity, seriously eroding social safety n ets, and the fact that consumer debt has reached record levels (Sandoval, Rank and Hirschl, 2009, p 717) In 2013, consumer debt was almost 3 trillion dollars ( http://www.money zine.com/financial planning/debt consol idation/consumer debt statistics/ ). T he American economy has changed drastically in the last 40 years and wages have remained flat according to Edelman (2012) The Russell Sage Foundation states

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6 that the top one percent of Americans earn 25% of the total American income. The gap between higher wages for the rich and the reality of low paying jobs for the poor has put those at the bottom at an even greater disadvantage Even the middle class has been negatively affected by the growing income gap pushing them lower on the ladder According to Mishel, Bivens, Gould & Shierholz (2012), wages of middle class Americans are lower than they have been in over a decade. There is evidence that gely end up where they started out on the economic ladder, and the same 2012, p. 6) effectively creating barriers to upward mobility If we care about equal opportunity, then we must continue to be concerned about the inequality of income in the United States and particularly in the way that it impacts the American ideal of equal opportunity. State and federal governments have long tried to develop social safety nets to provide assistance to those in greatest need. According to Oberg and Aga (2010, p. 237) minimize the risk and to protect the child as the family copes with the multiple risk factors associated wi th poverty A social safety net provided to a family m ay be financial assistance provided by Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) or food stamps. It m ay be temporary shelters for the homeless, or an educational program like Head Start meant to alleviate some of the negative effects of poverty on children These safety nets, however, are politically controversial. There was a reduction in food stamps in 2013 T here are public calls for tighter controls, including things like drug testing for those on public assistance. Both Florida and Michigan have passed laws

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7 requiring this, despite its high price tag ($500,000 in Florida and only 5% tested positive so far) ( Gray 201 4). Local Context The state of Colorado has experienced the same economic problems that have troubled the rest of our country in recent years, declining wages and job opportunities and the widening income gap. Colorado has established a self sufficiency standard, which is defined as the income needed, by family type and size, to be self sufficient without public or private assistance. According to Pearce (2011), the self a measure of economic security that is based on the costs of the basic needs for working families: housing, child care, food, health care, transportation, and miscellaneous items, as well as the cost of taxes and the impact of tax credits. As Colorado reco vers from its recent economic downturn, long term economic prosperity will require responsible planning that puts all Coloradans on the path to self Paragraph 1). The self sufficiency standard for Colorado t akes into account the size of the family and the geographical location of the family within the state of Colorado. sufficiency standard, on average a single person must make $8.56 an hour, or $17,843 annually, to be self suffi cient; this is greater than the current minimum wage requirement in Colorado of $7.36 an hour. One parent supporting two children in the Denver metro are a needs to make $ 21 an hour, or $44,000 annually, to be self sufficient.

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8 The Cliff Effect Social safety nets were created to give assistance to those in need, but they can be pulled away, often abruptly, as people try to improve their situation. Many citizens in Colorado as well as citizens in every state, suffer from what is known as the cliff eff ect (Dinah, Chau, & Cauthen, 2007). The cliff effect is the point at which the wage earner gets a promotion and a raise, and then loses eligibility for the federal and/or state social safety net s currently being received leaving a lower total income. A raise from a $ 10 an hour job to a $12 an hour job might be enough to cause a family to lose their child care subsidy. The two dollar raise is not enough to cover the cost of the child care. Usually this occurs at a time when the family is approaching self sufficiency; the loss of social supports can plunge the family back into poverty. This creates a system of dependence; some parents might find lower paying jobs rather th an take a raise or a promotion to avoid losing their social safety net eligibility, and so remain dependent on social subsidies Table 1.1 Example of the Cliff Effect $10/HR $1733.33/mo Child care subsidy TANF Food Stamps L E AP assistance $10.50/HR $1820/month >$ 86 per month <$280 food stamps Net Loss $194/month $15/HR $2600/month > $780 < $1041 childcare < $260 LEAP >In healthcare, payroll taxes, income taxes Net Loss $533/month Colorado Center on Law and Policy, 2012

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9 Mi Casa Programs This study looked at the experiences of three single mothers in Denver, Colorado who had completed a job training program at Mi Casa Opportunity Center. The center provides services and resources to women who are out of work and is committed to improving the lives of unemployed women. Mi Casa was established in 1976 by eight Head Start mothers who wanted a safe place where women could get education and job training, support for the job search process, and obtain resources for the entire family. I targeted participants for the study who were participating in the Customer Service C areer P rogram at Mi Casa This program developed by Mi Casa in conjunction with local employers, is a six week intensive training program which covers customer service skills and also exposes participants to local companies and job fairs. My three participants had recently comp leted the program and were acti vely working or looking for jobs to support their families. I listened to the stories of t hese women, as they work ed toward a sustainable career and tried to achieve the American dream of and self sufficiency and upward mobility. Mi Casa offers educational job training, so that on completion, participants have developed job skills and are ready to go to wor k. Mi Casa staff work with women to create resumes, cover letters, and practice their interview skills The participants develop professional skills such as computer software experience, time management, prioritizing tasks and are given help in understanding the expectations of employers. Mi Casa continues to support the women as they look for work and beyond providing c areer counseling, computer access, professional development workshops, and case management services.

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10 Research Questions I wanted to look at what happens when women leave the program, r eady to go to work. I wondered whether the jobs they would be able to find would provide the upward mobility promised by the American dream. I wanted to understand, specifically : Why did the participants leave the workforce initially, or were not able to find work in the first place? What are some of the systemic barriers that lead to unemployment and potentially poverty? What are the factors that enhance or hinder them as they join or return to the workforce? What career resources and opportunities do they still need in order to find upward mobility? Conceptual Framework To guide my thinking, I looked at the concepts of cultural, social and economic capital, initially developed by Pierre Bourdieu (19 86 ) a French sociologist T he three types of capital are intertwined and speak to how resources are distributed in society (Zembylas, 2007). The concept of class in the United States is often based on financial wealth Most Americans consider themselves to be in the middle class, based almost entirely on their economic position. However, Bourdieu expanded the c oncept of capital to encompass not only financial resources, but how people use their capital to compete for power and resources (Allen, 2011).

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11 Bourdieu named three types of capital: social capital, which looks at connections to others; economic capita l, which explores the financial situation; and cultural capital, which includes values and ideas that have been passed down from one generation to the next and or from educational settings. significant status or class. Thus, those with a higher social status tend to have more cultural and social capital, and more social standing and power. individuals or (Zhang, DeBloise, Deniger, & Kamanzi, 2008, p. 98) because of their social connections Cultural capital refers to culturally based resources that can act (Winkle Wagner, 2010, p. 5 ). These resources are used in social think about and attempt to understand how things e larger community, and how the larger community influences the decisions one makes about the use of resources. Using cultural capital, we can begin to understand how one interacts with the larger community and just how much help one can depend on within that community and within their own informal social networks. Bourdieu recognized the connection between economic position and educational opportunities; he understood how lack of opportunity bring s about Wagner, 2010, Overall, the amount of social capital that one

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12 possesses depends on (1 ) the size of network connections or symbolic) possessed Bourdieu, 1986, p. 249). We should consider the social networks, the actual and potential resources that studying the effect and use of social safety nets within the community ( Carpiano 2006) Social capi tal can be a positive or negative force; it can influence some to access resources and exclude others from accessing those same resources within a community. th e heart of the idea of social capital. Social capital encompasses family, friends, neighbors; these are important assets that can be relied upon in times of need. Stephens (2008) suggests that poorer neighborhoods may have more local resources, and might be more adept at networking because they are poor. According to Woolcock and Narayan (2000), one defining feature of being poor is that one may be excluded from certain social networks that can be used to secure jobs and obtain decent housing. It will be important to look at the community and whether or not the participants are included or excluded from accessing the available resources. Developing and accessing appropriate safety nets requires one to understand the perspective of those in the community, as they are the ones to define what their needs are, and how they want their needs to be met. habitus history. Bourdieu defined habitus map that Hinote,

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13 2009, p. 203). This assumes that some things are taken for granted, or that a person behaves in a certain way without thinking, or that there are certain unconscious rules that one follows. Habitus refers to how the person views herself and speaks to her personal assessment of her own po tential. It is shaped by the family of origin and their community; I looked at their assessmen ts of themselves as students, as employees as children and as parents. I want ed are available. I aimed to understand their motivation for work and their choices surrounding work and family, and how they use their social and cultural capital within the community, and how they develop and sustain motivation for self sufficiency.

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14 CHAPTER II METHODOLOGY This is a qualitative study exploring the perceptions of unemployed women around their life circumstances, including poverty, career, and community. Qualitative research focuses on how people construct their worlds, how they interpret their e xperiences, and the meaning they attribute to those experiences (Merriam, 2009). The case study is an empirical, evidence based approach to a problem (Lee, Michna, Brennestuhl, 2010), in this case focusing on the aspects of moving from poverty to self suff iciency. qualitative research the search for meaning and understanding, the researcher as the primary instrument of data collection and analysis, and inductive investigative strategy an and challenges that might be getting in the way of achieving upward mobility and job promotion. The focus of this study is on understanding and determining meaning ar ound the participants own perception of their prospects for self sufficiency which made th e qualitative method appropriate. I interviewed, over the course of four months, three single mothers who had completed the customer service job training program a t Mi Casa Opportunity Center, and were either looking for work, or had recently found work I wanted to gain insight into the resources available and accessible to these women, as well as to explore the specific gaps and barriers that each of them face as they go to work.

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15 I recruited the women with a flyer at Mi Casa, with the help and encouragement of the : a single mo ther looking for work or recently employed Three women vol unteered for my study. I met with each one, explained the study, and got consent. I developed a series of questions that I asked each of the women. Semi structured i nterviews were conducted in the community where the participants live d or at Mi Casa. After two interviews, I transcribed the interviews and developed case studies. E ach participant was asked to review her case study, offer factual corrections, and to fill in any gaps identified during coding and synthesis of material In addition to the participant interviews, I also gathered data from Mi Casa staff and from an experienced policy maker at the Colorado Center on Policy and Law Questions during the semi structured interviews included gathering information about their family of origin, their school experiences, their dreams, and their early work experiences. I gathered information about their perceptions of school, themselves as l earner s how they came to be in their current situation, and how they learned about the expectations of their families. I identified resources and safety nets that they are currently using others that they might be aware of but not able to use as well as any challenges and barriers to getting or keeping a job. E ach interview was transc ribed The transcripts w ere then used to write three separate case studies, one for each participant. These cases provided information on supports that were wo rking, problems that still exist ed and provided some insight as to why self sufficiency, and ultimately upward mobility, is so difficult to achieve. The case study was then uploaded into Dedoose a computer application for qualitative data

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16 analysis, and coded. In this process gaps in information that were noticed were addressed with a follow up interview with each of the three participants After completing at least two interviews with each of the three participants and transcribing the results, I wrote a case study for each participant. After the initial case study was written, each participant was given an opportunity to review the case study for accuracy I used this opportunity to identify and fill in gaps in the data. The entire case study for each participant is presented in Appendix B. A synopsis of the case study and the findings are presented in this section. All of the names are pseudonyms, selec ted by the participants.

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17 CHAPTER III FINDINGS Case Studies Case Study 1: A Place of Her Own: Clover Clover is a 20 year old single mo ther of a 9 month old baby boy. She and her son live with her parents and her brother in the house where Clover grew up. Clover who loves crafting and using power tools to create yard art. She comes across as somewhat self assured appears to be middle class. They own their own home, they have three cars, and both parents work. Her father is an architect and her mother is a cake decorator. It is apparent to Clover however, that her family is feeling the effects of the downturn in the economy She describes her family father took a lower paying job recently and her mother has seen a decline in work as well. the family would have to limit meat products or go with cheaper food brands. Of all the participants, Clover seems to have the most support from her family. They provide housing, transportation, and child care on a regular basis. In return, Clover us es her food stamps to provide food for the entire family. In addition to food stamps, social safety nets that Clover uses are the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (C C CAP) Medicaid and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Her son is also participating in the Women Infant and Children Program ( WIC ) until he is 5 which

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18 provides nutritious food for him Clover found out about the different social safety nets from a family friend and a former co worker, both of whom helped Clover identify av ailable resources and apply for them when Clover first became pregnant. Clover has a high school diploma and a semester at community college. She describes herself as good at math and science, but not as smart at reading or history. She thinks that her p arents expected her to complete college, and her grandmother had given her some savings bonds, intended to supplement the cost of her college education. After that semester at community college, though, Clover cashed th ose bonds and move d to California wi th a boyfriend. When that did not work out, she returned to Denver and went to work in retail. Shortly a fter that, despite the fact that she was on a form of birth control, she became pregnant, an event that changed the course of her life. Initially, she considered adoption, father convinced her not to do this. Shortly after the birth, however, he Clover finds taking care of her son harder than she expected; she h as seen others take care of their children and work and they seem to manage just fine Although she lives with her parents now, she would like to find Section 8 housing in the near future. She has heard about Warren Village from some of her friends, and would like to live there, but she thinks that they have at least a nine page waiting list. She currently shares a room with her son, and she knows that as he gets older, this will become more challenging, especially once he moves out of his crib.

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19 When we first met, Clover had just finished the job training at Mi Casa, and was looking for work. She was quickly hired by Home Depot but there are some challenges. to and from work. The Home Depot where she works is not the most convenient one to her house or to the child care center. Just getting to work requires either two or three buses, depending on the bus schedule and which one I can take. She also relies on her mom to take her son to child care on most days ; taking him on the bus when it is dark and cold is difficult and requires additional bus time If she takes her son to child care she has to take two buses and walk a block to child care, and then take two more buses to work. She has to repeat that process when she gets off work Her availability to work is limited to week days because that is when the child care center is open, but that restriction is hindering her ability to work at least 25 hours a week. Her CCCAP child care subsid y requires that she work at least 25 hours a week in order to keep her child care. Currently, she is working with her parents to figure out some additional evenings and weekend days that she might be able to work if they could provide child care. she earns enough to buy a car or rent her home only 45 minutes after getting there, even though it took her almost an hour to navigate the transportation from her house to work. again, until she has been seizure free for a time Currently, she is not able to see her neurologist because when she first got her job at H ome D epot she lost her Medicaid, time and had no benefits. The income cap

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2 0 on Medicaid has been increased, so she thinks that she will be able to get her Medicaid back in 2014. Currently, Clover is making $9 an hour, but is struggling to get 25 hours per week. This means her wages would be about $700 800 per month. H er food stamps however, will be cut from the $300 she has been getting to $159 dollars starting in February because of her job She lost her Medicaid, but hopes to get this back. Also, now that she is working, she will be required to pay $101 to the child care center previously pa id entirely by C C CAP She also will need to contribute some rent (she and her parents are discussing the amount) if she is not contributing food stamps to the family. Right now, she is able to spend some of her paycheck on her baby and on clothes and personal items for herself and she is able to put a small amount into a savings account, if there are no unexpected expenses during the month. She looks at this as her or find a place to live, but with increased expenses, she is not sure if she can continue with this. Clover dreams of being an animal control officer, but she thinks that this would require some criminal justice training; she is currently trying to complete some coursework online. If she can get at least 25 hours a week of work, she thinks she could also attend college part time and pursue her dream In January 2014 she was able to get financial aid to take three online courses at a community college. She hopes to complete degree. If she could create a perfect world for her son, it would be this:

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21 I get married to and it turns into a father figure for him, I just want a male person in his life besides his grandfather and his uncle. I would like him to have a sibling to pla y around with and learn how to share and stuff but I would try and make it more like, be more supportive of him no matter what he chooses to do, basically if he wants to, like is c are about his preferences, if he wants school. As long as he graduates high school, that is probably my biggest standard for him other than having a job, if he wants to go to college and get another things that I want him to have. Case Study 2: A Second Chance: Carla Carla is a 41 year old single Latina, who grew up in a large family in Texas. She has a sweet smile, and is smart but somewhat tentative in her responses. Her father was a truck driver and her mom was a stay at home mom. She remembers her childhood as happy, with her mom cooking big breakfa s t s and listening to music on the radio. very poor. When her mom and dad married, he brought her mom to the United States, and her mom was happy to stay at home and have chores, her mom did all of that. Her mom also sp help her children with their homework. Carla does not think her mom cared about school, as no one ever checked to see if the children sh e was smarter than most of the other kids; she did well in school and especially in math. She thinks if she had tried she would have done well in school, but she thought school was boring for the most part. As a child, Carla wanted to be a lawyer; her older

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22 age of 13 and was locked up and she was interested in learning how to help him At the age of 14, Carla got her first job selling candy after schoo l She would often make $20 in a day. At 16, she got a job as a lifeguard, and her dad got her a job at a thrift store on weekends, where she cleaned and stocked shelves. When Carla was 17 though, her whole word changed; her father got cancer and died, a nd the family lost everything. She did get some social security benefits for a time expenses, but she was allowed to keep $60 from each check for herself. They were forced to move to the projects and Carla says her mom got real, real religious An for a while and then out of the blue she just sends them to his family in Mississippi, so we s family in Mississippi although she remembers visiting them when her dad was alive. Carla dropped out of high school eventually, and attended an accounting school for a while. She thinks this was the result of some testing that the school did, and that they encouraged her to try the accounting school. She eventually quit that, too, though, to pick her up, but she would forget. After a couple of bad experiences tr ying to catch a T here was a couple

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23 At 18 (4) She and her husband moved around quite a bit, and he ended up in jail. She tried to raise money for bail quickly, initially taking a job as a stripper. even know how to dance. I was just thinking, how could I get money fast legally? She describes that job as terrifying, and as t permanent residence, and the legal system considered him a flight risk. So Carla took her babies and went to Arizona to be with h er mother. He did get out of jail eventually, and joined his family in Arizona and for a time, the family was stable, both parents working for a temp agency. At some point in 2004 the family moved back to Texas, to a small town where her husband had f amily. By this time, they had four children, the oldest one was 12 and the youngest was four When her husband got locked up again, she was forced to take a job at a convenience store, and she would leave the kids in the care of the 12 year old. wanting this an d wanting that, needing something for school, it was just really, really oldest one took on most of the responsibilities, as far as, you know when they got home from school she was sending them off to school in the morning, because I would work

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24 three days without really seeing her kids Carla admits that she was in a bad place at th at time. What she needed was some help assistance to pay her bill s and care for her children. I nstead, she left them alone while she worked and while she was out selling drugs and eventually she got arrested and locked up, and her children were taken away. Her sister, who had two kids of her own, took the four kids and raised them. Carla was charged with a felony for child endangerment. Ca r la spent years doing drugs and trying to survive without her kids. Carla is in contact with her daughters now, who are both over 18, but she has not talked with her two boys for years. In 2009, Carla came to Denver and moved in with her mother She spent a year and a half trying to get well, to get off drugs, and get her life back together. After a year and a h alf, she felt that she needed to get a job. She needed something within walking work at a car wash. At the car wash, she met a man and eventually ended up getting p regnant and relapsing into drugs. As soon as her baby was born, Carla quit doing drugs. She has now been clean for two father is no longer in the picture, having been sent to prison and losing contact. Carla thinks this is for the but it is hard. She is glad that

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25 she lived in Colorado and not Texas because Colorado gave her a second chance, a chance to be a good mother and a good pr ovider. She is learning how to live on her own, and trying to find a job. When we last spoke, Carla had finished the job training program and was actively looking for work. Despite her good work ethic and her vast job experience, she is finding it diffic ult to land a job. She interviewed with Home Depot, but because of the child endangerment felony, they would not hire her, despite the fact that this was almost 10 cannot complete the job application until the following day, when she can go to Mi Casa and use the computers. By then, she thinks, the jobs have been filled by someone who was able to fill out the application immediately. Carla and her baby live in a tr ansitional housing facility. The facility is actually a converted motel, so she and the baby have one room where they live and sleep Her kitchen consists of a microwave in her room ; the facility has a community kitchen with a lot of stoves, and she has her own refrigerator over there. The kitchen is being remodeled, so right now it is not useable. So me days, a church brings in food for the community. Her son gets breakfast and lunch at childcare during the week. Other days, for the most part, she buy they have microwave dinners, but it is more expensive, and with food stamps cut, so in October by $40 and t

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26 The housing facility charges her a percentage of her income, and her TANF is considered income. She is on TANF and food stamps and the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program ( C CCAP) With her TANF, she pays her rent, for her methadone and for Pampers. If she could get off the methadone, she c ould save that $100 a month. But I have to get a job to get off of that off of the m be stable, and I would know when I could come off of it successfully. At least withou t using, you know, a lot of people have gotten off of it, but they use some other kind, like right way, so h ope fully, once I get a job, I get stable, I could star t coming off of the they take them to ballgame an orie ntation, you call, if they are going to start January, you call, go to Orien tation, fill out the paperwork and stuff, those 28 people, well, you have to get picked, and I feel really lucky be cause I got picked out of that many people, but I think mainly be cause I was the only one that only had one kid. Most of them are two rooms, if three

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27 three months you are on p robation to see if you work out She will be allowed to live at that place for two years, and then she will be able to move to Section 8 housi never been the one to want to be on welfare and I just see if I could get a job I could pay to go. I two years, I can either get a car from gives cars to residents who move out at the end of two years and they save a portion of the rent in a savings account for the resident when he/she is able to move out. They also are allowed to take the furniture that is in the unit er felonies keep her from doing it. She is hoping to get give it a try [being a phlebotomist] but right now I just need to get a job and get a little bit of stability Case 3: Hope for the Future: Beth B eth is a bubbly, optimistic Latina in her early 40s. Her oldest son is 25 and lives on his own, but two sons and a daughter live with her, as well as the daughter of her

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28 boyfriend and three year old The boyfriend is locked up for violating parole; he was driving without a license and was sent to jail a few weeks before we met. It helps tha t his daughter lives with Beth, because she gets food stamps, which helps feed this large family. Beth wanted to be a part of this study, because she hopes that her story will help other single mo thers in some way. She has come a long way and the journey has not been easy. Beth speaks with pride about her youngest son; he is playing football and is apparently quite good. The middle son has recently been in some trouble for a burglary, and was wearing an ankle monitor when we me t. While Beth want s to help him, she has agreed this was pretty normal. Beth grew up in a large family, with her mo ther and stepdad, who have been married since Beth was five years old. They both worked in an envelope factory for over 20 years, until it closed down, and then they both retired, telling my brothers, you might not get married, or you mig ht get married and end up divorced where you never know, so you have to be ready for it, so she taught all of us shared a room with her sister.

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29 Despite the fact that Be ther saying much about school. She thought she was really good at science and at math. She thinks that if her mo ther had been more interested in education, Beth would have taken it more found the time to get her GED. She thinks that she has had a more difficult time finding jobs, bec pushing her own kids to do well in school, and her 15 year old son is already looking at colleges. Beth wanted to get her first job at 15, and her mo ther taught her about budg eting. and she would teach me that you are going to have to pay rent, pay bills when you move steadily since she was 15, working in fast food. She has done everything from cooking to cashiering to waitressing. She has liked almost all of her jobs, except working the graveyard shift at a ever know what you are In 11 th grade, Beth got pregnant and dropped out of high school. She was 18 and in the military, and Bet stationed in other places, so Beth lived with her parents during that time. The remain friendly though. Her remaining three children were with a different man, who also liked to drink a lot. She has

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30 been with her current boyfriend since 2006, and until he went to jail, he was helping her raise the kids I t was so weird because Wal attention to you, you know, their employees kind of, they have their favorites where they do like employee of the month and stuff but they never really recognized the people up th that. After became homeless. She talks about how hard that time was, but that she and her kids grew closer. They were forced to live in a homeless shelter until she me t a woman who offered her a job managing a mobile home park job training program. When she finished that training program, she was able to get a job king $8.39 an hour. She loves this job, and has worked there for about a year. Management knows who she is she even got a gift card in the first month for her excellent customer service. She has been promoted and at the end of her first year, is now a manager in the cheese department making almost $18 an hour. She also has one week of paid vacation and sick leave even though she is unsure how all this works. Because of her job, she currently has no social supports; her children are still on Medicaid, but she hopes at some point to get them off even that support. Her son need

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31 braces, and Medicaid will not pay for that, so she is trying to figure out how to pay for that. It is still hard to make ends meet, even at $18 an hour, because she has a large family. It is somewhat easier because the kids are now older and they live close enou gh for them to walk to school on their own. She also has an old van that provides transportation for the family. It does give her some trouble, but sometimes her brother is able to fix it. The family visits food banks and clothing banks about once a month to help make ends meet. Her 15 year old son would like to get a job to help out, but Beth really wants him to focus on school and football for now. Beth loves her job, though, and hopes to work at King Soopers forever. She feels valued and appreciated at her job. Analysis When I began this study, I was interested in looking at the likelihood of self sufficiency and upwa rd mobility especially among those who were unemployed or just recently employed I wanted to examine the social safety nets that were helping, and they finished job tra ining and moved into the workforce. I had hoped to find evidence of the cliff e ffect as women moved from unemployment to the workforce. I did not find much evidence of this; instead what I discovered was what Chaer Roberts of the Colorado Center on Poli cy and Law calls mini cliffs ( personal communication, January 2 014) These mini cliffs can be a series of challenges and setbacks to self sufficiency that happen along the way obstacles to being able to find and obtain housing, transportation, and work, and they occur at different points along the journey.

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32 The other unexpected finding for me, is that my three participants were all raised by two parent families in single family homes for most of their childhood. None of them we re aware of financial issues in the family early on; and none of them described their families as poor or needy. They recalled family vacations happy memories, and provided evidence of their parents steady work. For all three of them, though, a traumat ic event or experience (or a series of life events) changed the course of life for each of them. Social capital from the two parent famil ies of each woman provided friends and networks at school and in the community, and all the women reported being smart and doing well in school. These networks later took a different direction when they left high school or community college. They were not able to expand the social networks in ways that allowed them to find meaningful work or complete their education. They had family members who took them in when they got pregnant, but school networks reduced significantly, so much so that they eventually left formal education. They had social networks that helped them get pu blic supports, like food stamps and TANF, once they had children, but not necessarily to get more education or job training or find job opportunities for anything beyond low wage jobs. Carla was able to find housing through a social contact, but it was te mporary housing. Beth found housing through a contact she met at the homeless shelter, but it is small and crowded for a family of four. There is little evidence in my study of the type of social capital that would help women move into the middle class; no way to learn about better paying jobs, hear about job openings, or find out about post secondary educational opportunities.

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33 finish her educati on (college) and they had planned financially for that. Clover made some decisions about that money, though, that have prevented her from finishing her education. For Beth and Carla, school did not come across to them as a priority for their families. F despite the fact that she was 18 and had not completed high school. For all three of the participants, a lack of education and marketable job skills have made the job search more diffic ult. For Beth, as her children get older, one of her priorities is that her children will go to college, as she sees now the importance of an education. As expected, o ne of the most striking barriers in this study has to do with single motherhood. As women become mothers, the barriers and challenges increase, especially if the father is not in the picture. Households with only one wage earner in economy are likely to struggle, especially if the head of the household is female. A becomes even more of a challenge if the woman qualifies for mainly low wage work, like my participants. Low wage work typically does not come with paid leave benefits. Some of the effects of low wage jobs can be mitigated if there are two wage earners in the family; however, for single mo thers they have the responsibility of caring for the children at home and supporting the family singlehandedly Establishing policies that will a llow single mothers to continue with their education would make a significant difference in their career prospects. All three participants were confident about finding work and had persevered through some fairly tough times. All of them began working at an early age at a variety

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34 of jobs. All three participants thought that they were good students and recognized the value of ed ucation and job training in getting better jobs. Beth recognized the impact of not having a GED on her job search. Carla worried about the possibility of relapse and losing her children, but her resolve was impressive. Systemic Barriers Life events There were several significant life events that participants identified as life changing. Death of a parent could alter the course of a life. For Carla, the death of her father at 17 resulted in the loss of the family house, a move to the projects, her mo changing and becoming religious, and Carla herself going crazy partying and doing drugs. Pregnancy in the teen years changed the course of life for all of them B oth Carla and Beth dropped out of high school to care for a baby. Clover finished high school and one semester of community college, but then her pregnancy caused her to change course. For Clover, in particular, caring for a baby has been harder than she expected. For all of them, mothering and childcare has significantly impacted their ability to become self sufficient. More mouths to feed coupled with a lack of transportation and low paying jobs creates a tenuous position for single mo ther s. For Carla and Beth, having a partner go to jail also changed the situation; Carla was unprepared to support the family and was forced to take a low paying job at a convenience store, leaving her kids in the care of her 12 year old. Trying to make her

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35 paycheck go further, she also be gan selling drugs, and when she left the kids at home and was not at work, she was arrested and her four children were taken away from her. For Beth, when her partner went to jail, she lost her job then became homeless. Children and child care This is one of the most significant obstacles Single mothers need jobs to support their families, but they also love their children and want to care for them. Most of them do this without much help. For Beth, she was able to successfully work at a job which required shift work only once her children were old enough and she was able to move close enough for them to walk to school. Both Carla and Clover were taking advantage of the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP); this came with some barri ers and challenges of its own Child care centers in this program are open only five days a week; the jobs available to my participants were often retail stores that required shift work, and shifts varied; they could be on any day of the week or weekend. Offering child care to wage earners seven days a week, and during evening hours would definitely help; often women looking for jobs cannot pursue jobs if they cannot find suitable child care. Beth never took advantage of CCCAP because she has always work ed in places where the shifts and Child care without public assistance can be prohibitively expensive, often more than college tuition at a local community college ( Colorado Center on Law an d Policy, 2013) With public assistance, though, there are requirement s that may prevent use of that public assistance. P articipants of CCCAP are required to work at least 25 hours a

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36 week to keep this support ; this can be difficult in a number of ways. If the mother depends on public transportation to get to work, she must also depend on public transportation to get her child or chi ldren to day care or school The time to get to the child care center and then on to work can take an hour or more, dependi ng on the distance from home to work site. Only Clover had help from her parents, who took her son to child care on most days. Also, the centers hours can be a problem; most are open from 6 to 6 Monday through Friday Store s like King Soopers and Home Depot are open later than that and on weekends as well as weekdays These restrictions often result in scheduling problem s at the job site especially workers with little seniority. CCCAP seems to work best for parents with steady jobs and regular work schedules. It does not work as well for families with varying work schedules, or for jobs that require weekend work. Transportation Another significant obstacle is the lack of good public transportation. Cars in a city are not really a luxury although buying and maintaining a car can be prohibitively expensive for the working poor Public transportation is onerous. Only one of the participants had a car, and for her, that car was older and often gave her trouble. Just recently, the wipers, a headlight and a taillight all went out. There had to be made. When she is not able to keep in running, she relie s on public transportation, joining my other two participants in trying to navi gate the public bus schedule. This schedule often results in long bus rides, two or three bus changes, adding significantly to the time it takes to get to

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37 work and back. Add into the mix the need to drop a child at daycare or school, and the trip becomes even longer. Clover was hoping to move to a Home Depot closer to her house, once she had passed her probation period. There is often a fairly long wait time for public transportation or a need to change buses, which increases the time to get to work, to get a child to day care, to get home. Housing All of my participants had housing, but two of the three were in more temporary situations. Carla lived in a transitional housing facility, which was located right on I 25. Although the area was well kept, and came with a playground, she had quit riding her bike around the area, because it was scary once you left the property. Also, it was not located near any places that were likely to have jobs for her, which meant that she had to icrowave; this meant that she had to spend her food stamps on more expensive prepared meals, since she Clover was living with her parents in a cluttered house. She was sharing a room with her son, and the entire family shared a bathroom. T he availability of Section 8 housing, which might be affordable seemed limited; Clover thought that Warren Village had a nine page waiting list.

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38 Legal Issues According to Chaer Roberts (personal communication 2014), poverty moves to a assistance. She was arrested and sent to jail However, d espite the fact that it happened nearly 10 years ago, it kept her from getting a job at Home Depot (and likely others) According to Allard and Small (2013), a criminal record makes it nearly impossible to find stable employment Carla says having a lot of job experience and a good work ethic, she has been unable to find work. I wondered if this charge was more severe because she could no t afford good legal represe ntation ; without good legal representation, there are consequence s that are long term but may not be apparent at the start. All of the participants were adversely affected by the legal system; for Beth, the fact that her boyfriend was locked up meant that she became the sole caretaker of 4 children rent she once shared with a partner ; she and her kids became homeless, living in a shelter. I t also meant that she often missed work because of the chaos of living in a shelter or temporary housing and eventually she lost her job. his child support without a job. It seemed to be a vicious cycle without a good resolution. he disappeared after this and was no longer in the picture.

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39 Michelle Alexander (2012) describes t he criminal justice sys tem as a legal way to discriminate against many. the old forms of (Alexander, 2012, p. 4). According to Chaer Roberts (personal communication, 2014), there is also some evidence that lega l issues are more of a problem for people who live in poorer neighborhoods. Police patrols are more likely present in certain neighborhoods, there is evidence of racial profiling, and those in poverty have limited access to legal assistance. Mini C liffs As income increases and social supports decrease, these single mothers experience mini cliffs. Two of them were able to get jobs, paying more than minimum wage. However, Clover was making about $9 an hour, but finding it difficult to get even 25 hours a week of work, with daycare restrictions and transportation issues. She had her seizures. She experienced a reduction in her food stamps and an increase in her part o f the child care subsidy. These increased expenses means that she will continue to be dependent on her parents for support for a time, and likely will not find a home of her own anytime soon. For Beth, she was making almost $18 an hour, but for a family o f four, this was not enough to be self sufficient. There was still not enough money for unexpected car repairs. She was also still using food banks and clothing banks at least once a month to make ends meet.

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40 Other I ssues While all of the women were aware of social supports that could help with child care, housing, and food, there was often a lack of understanding about other issues. Career and job counseling may be one issue. Possibly, Clover could get an entry level job as an animal control office degree. Carla has experienced the most difficulty obtaining work, because she has a felony that is considered a barrier to employability. Despite her hard work, Carla continues to search for employment. Conclusions and Recommendations All three women in my study had a life altering event that contributed to their plunge into poverty. Early pregnancies which ended formal education, at least at the time, coupled with low wage offerings left them to depend on public assistance and social safety nets. All of them are raising families will little or no support fro fathers. Two of the three women left high school before completion. High schools could have more ro bust career development strategies in place to prepare women for the workplace, and a better support for those women who become pregnant so that they might find a way to complete their high school education Additionally, life skills in terms of budgeting household management and development of lifelong learning plans and goals are imperative Thinking about the importance of social capital, or building networks, could also be a n important strategy for high school s Developing good pipeline programs to introduce higher education would also help, with information on how to obtain financial aid and housing suitable for families.

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41 All three women were able to access public assistance in varying degrees to help them, yet continued to struggle to cover basic n eeds let alone unexpected expenses. All of them learned about public assistance and housing programs from family or friends Childcare restrictions and red tape were significant barrier s Nontraditional days and hours (weekends, evenings) would help all of these fam ilies. Children deserve quality child care ; available jobs for women with little education are usually slightly above minimum wage but put families below the poverty threshold. These same jobs are often at big box stores that require hour s beyond traditional 8 5 work schedules For single mothers to continue to work, childcare assistan ce is imperative. For children, it is important to receive consistent, regular child care, which could be provided by centers that offer childcare that match a parent rates, holiday policies, and sick day policies to benefit the ch ild care centers would ensure that small business could continue to offer quality child care without loss of income. A lack of information persists among the women as well. Clover wanted to find Section 8 housing, but was unsure how to go about it. She h ad heard rumors of a nine page waiting list. She wanted to be an animal control officer but thought that she had to have a college degree to make this happen. Career counseling seemed to be limited to industries that had many available jobs (big discount chains) rather than finding meaningful work. Carla experienced obstacles in terms of a felony offense almost 10 years ago; she thought that it might fall off in 10 years, but she needs work now. Changes in policy offering a clean slate for non violent felonies would significantly improve her chances of finding work.

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42 Mi Casa provides job training, but the scope of this training is limited; the jobs that most of the women who complete this program can get are still low paying jobs. No agency is addressing continuing career development and job training, preparing women for jobs that will allow them to find upward mobility and to move into the middle class. Mi Casa also provides some opportunities to build social cap ital; connecting women with legal advice, some assistance for establishing or repairing credit, and tax advice. T his allows for some expansion of social capital; there is a need, though, for a wider circle of connections, so that women can learn about bet ter job openings or find opportunities to influence policy that supports ways to transform work places to so that these workplaces support the new single parent family structures and provide a means for balancing family obligations a s well as provid ing opp ortunities for career development. Work should pay enough for families to be self sufficient; it should cover the basic expenses, at the very least, and provide food, housing, t ransportation, and medical care Minimum wage needs to be a living wage. Women should be paid the same as men who do the same work. A need for some type of paid leave exists as well. Without paid leave, a single parent may have to miss work to tend to a sick child and lose even that lo w wage job if multiple absences are required. If famil y then public assistance programs make up the difference. Social safety nets can help those with the greatest need, but reductions in these safety nets often come to o soon. As the family income approaches a break even point, these safety nets are withdrawn. The net effect is that the family continues to struggle even while working full time. Also, the political controversy surrounding social safety nets make these supports precarious;

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43 the slight reduc tion in food stamps in 2013 resulted in a greater need for food pantries for Carla and Clover Lack of education limits the opportunities for better paying jobs; low paying jobs offer little chance at self sufficienc y and almost no chance for upward mobility. Those at the bottom especially single parent families, find it difficult to raise a family and work; a lack of public transportation means longer commute times to school and work ; lack of family support means missed days at work when a child is sick ; too many missed days at work often results in termination It is a vicious cycle. Businesses need to pay a living wage; public policy needs to ensure that services and benefits are available and accessible to those in need. Even the notion of self sufficiency and achieving the American Dream is called into question; instead of promoting self sufficiency, it might be more productive to create better communities which could offer resou rces and support for single parents to share the burden of child care, transportation, and housing. Instead of single family homes, communities might be created where families would have access to several levels of support; support from other single mothe rs sharing child care support from a variety of service providers, and perhaps sharing resources like computers and internet and developing more convenient public transportation. Public policy seems to support safety nets for those in need, but is fraught with misunderstandings and misinformation. Public opinion often seems to imply that those who are accessing social safety nets are lazy or stupid ; I did not find this to be the case but instead found the exact opposite All of my participants wanted to work and take care

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44 of their families. All of them were incredibly resilient, but feeling the stress of working hard and yet making little progress in self sufficiency or upward mo bility. They wanted meaningful work and took pride in their ability to do a job well

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45 REFERENCES Alexander, M. (2012). The new Jim Crow: M ass incarceration in the age of colorblindness New York, NY: The New Press. Allard, S. & Small, M. (2013). Reconsidering the urban disadvantaged: The role of systems, institutions, and organizations. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 647, 6 20. DOI: 10.1177/0002716213479317 Allen, B. J. (2011). Difference matters: C ommunicating social identity (2 nd ed .). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press. Bracho, A. (2003). Focusing on the voice of the people In Eliminating health disparities: Conversations with Latinos Scotts Valley CA: ETR Associates. Bourdieu, P. (1986). Th e forms of capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241 258). New York: Greenwood. Carpiano, R. (2005). Toward a resource based theory of social capital for health: Can Bourdieu and sociolog y help? Social Science and Medicine, 62, 165 175. Carroll, D. (2007). Portraiture and the role of the researcher: Reflections and questions. Canadian Journal of Music Therapy, 13 (2), 148 159. Cockerham, W. and Hinote, B. (2009). Quantifying habitus: Future directions. In K. Robson and C. Sanders (Eds.). Quantifying theory: Pierre Bourdieu (pp. 201 210). Collet, F. (2009). Does habitus matter? A comparative review of Bourdieu's habitus and Simon's bounded rationality with some implications for economic sociology. Sociological Theory, 27(4), 419 434. Collier, M.J. (2000). Constituting cultural difference through discourse. International and Intercultural Communication Annual, 23(3). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Colorado Center on Law and Policy. (2013). Childcare and unemployment: A community blueprint for policy change Denver, CO. Corcoran, M. (1995). Rags to riches: Poverty and mobility in the United States. Annual Review of Sociology, 21, 237 267.

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46 Dinah, K., Chau, M. & Cauthen, N. (2007). Two steps forward and three steps back: The coalition, Columbia University, Mailman school of Public health, retrieved on June 1, 2013 from http://www.wfco.org/document.doc?id=56 Dumais, S. (2002). Cultural capital, gender, and school success: The role of habitus. Sociology of Education, 75, (1), 44 68. Edelman, P. (2012). New York, NY: The New Press. Federal Register. (2013). Department of Health and Human Services, Retrieved on June 1, 2013, from https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/01/24/2013 01422/annual update of the hhs poverty guidelines#t 1 Gray, K. (2014). Michigan senate passes bill on drug testing for welfare recipients. Detroit Free Pres s Hackman, D. (2002). Using portraiture in educational research International Journal of Leadership in Education: Theory and Practice 5:1, 51 60. Haney, T. (2007). Broken windows and self esteem: Subjective understanding of neighborhood poverty and disorder. Social Science Research 26, 968 994. Hulme, D. & Shepherd, A. (2003). Conceptualizing chronic poverty. World Development 31(3), 403 423. Icel and, J. (2012). Poverty in America: A h andbook Berkley and Los Angeles, California: University of California press. Langille Hoppe, M., Maxey, M., Gonzalez, J., & Terrell, S. (2010). "What makes you think I'm poor?". Journal of Ethnographic & Qualitative Research 4 125 138. Lawrence Lightfoot, S. & Davis, J. (1997). The art and science of portraiture San Francisco: Jossey Bass, Inc. Lee, M. (2012). Forgotten alliance: Jews, Chicanos, and the dynamics of class and race in Denver, Colorado, 1967 1971. Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, 30 (2), 1 25. Lee, E., Mishna, F., & Brennnenstuhl, S. (2010). How to critically evaluate case studies in social work. Research on Social Work Practice, 20, 682 689. doi : 10.1177/1049731509347864 Merriam, S. (2009). Qualitative research San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

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47 Mi Casa Opportunity Center, retrieved on June 1, 2013 from http://www.wfco.org/document.doc?id=56 Mi Casa Opportunity Center. (2012). Mi Casa Volunteer Handbook Mishel, L., Bivens, J., Gould, E. & Shierholz, H. (2012). The state of working America, 12th edition Economic Policy Institute: Cornell University Press. Oberg, C. & Aga, A. (2010). Childhood poverty and the social safety net. Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care 40(10)237 262. Pearce D. (2011). The self sufficiency standard for Colorado 2011 Colorado Center on Law & Policy: University of Washington. Peters, G. & Woolley, J.T. on the State of the Union. The American Presidency Project : http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=26787 Pressman, S. & Scott, R. (2009). Consumer debt and the measurement of poverty and inequality in the US. Review of social Economy, 67 (2), 127 148. Russell Sage Foundation, Chartbook of social inequality, http://www.russellsage.org/node/3430 Sandoval, D., Rank, M. & Hirschl, T. (2009). The increasing risk of poverty across the American life course. Demography 46, 4, 717 737. Shaffer, P. (2001). New thinking on poverty: Implications for poverty reduction strategies Paper prepared for Uni ted Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) Expert Group Meeting on Globalisation and Rural Poverty, United Nations, November 8 9, 2001. Short, K., Iceland, J., & Dalaker, J. (2002). Defining and redefining poverty. American Sociolog ical Association of America 24, 1 29. Sommeiller, E. & Price, M. (2014). The Increasingly unequal states of America: Income inequality by state, 1917 to 2011 Washington, D.C.: The Economic Policy Institute Stephens, C. (2008). Social capital in its place: Using social theory to understand social capital and inequalities in health. Social Science & Medicine 66 (5), 1174 1184. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.11.026 Tough, P. (2009). Whatever it takes New York: Houghton Mifflin Ha rcourt.

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48 United States Census Bureau Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division: Poverty | Last Revised: September 12, 2012, retrieved on June 1, 2013 at http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/about/overview/index.html Winkle Wagner, R. (2010). Cultural capital: The promises and pitfalls in educational research San Francisco: Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Woolcock, M. & Narayan, D. (2000). Social capital: Implications for development theory, research and policy. The World Bank Research Observer, 15, (2), 225 249. Yaqub, S. (2003). Chronic poverty: scrutinizing patterns, correlates, and explorations. CPRC Working Paper 21 Manchester: IDPM, University of Manchester. Zembylas, M. (2007). Emotional capital and education: Theoretical insights from Bourdieu. British Journal of Educational Studies 55, (4), 443 463. Zhang, X, DeBlois, L., Deniger, M. & Kamanzi, C. (2008). A theory of success for disadvantaged children: Reconceptualization of social capital in the light of resilience. The Alberto Journal of Educational Research, 54, (1), 97 111. Zion S. (July 2012). Northwest Denver Promise Neighborhoods Planning Project Submitted to US Department of Education, Promise Neighborhoods Competition.

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49 A PPENDIX A RESEARCH METHODS This is a qualitative study designed to explore the perceptions of women around life circumstances, including family, career, and community. Qualitative research focuses on how people construct their worlds, how they interpret their experiences, and the m eaning they attribute to those experiences (Merriam, 2009). The case study is an empirical, evidence based approach to a problem (Lee, Michna, Brennestuhl, 2010), in this case trying to achieve self sufficiency and upward mobility I interviewed three s in gle mothers who are currently or have in the recent past accessed the services and resources at Mi Casa Opportunity Center and explained my project. All t hree participants completed a 4 week job training customer service program, and had either found work or were still looking for work. Using a case study methodology I tried to understand career development, poverty, and social safety nets from the perspective of those who are living it, as well as barriers to finding or keeping a job and becoming self s ufficient. qualitative research the search for meaning and understanding, the researcher as the primary instrument of data collection and analysis, and inductive investigative strategy and challenges that might be getting in the way of achieving upward mobility and job promotion. The focus of this study was on understanding and determini ng meaning, which made the qualitative method appropriate. According to Merriam (2009), in a

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50 qualitative study, the researcher is the primary instrument for data collection and analysis, and I was the primary data collector, through a process of interview s and observations. Research Questions Mi Casa offers educational job training, so that on completion participants are trained and ready to go to work. Mi Casa staff work with them to create resumes, cover letters, practice their interview skills, helps them develop professional skills, and assists them in understanding the expectations of employers. This author wanted to look at what happens when women le ave the program, ready to go to work. I wondered, will the jobs they are able to find provide the upward mobility promised by the American dream? Will they eventually become self sufficient? Specifically, I wanted to look at: Why did the participants le ave the workforce, or were not been able to find work in the first place? What are some of the barriers that lead to unemployment and poverty? What are the factors that enhance or hinder them as they join or return to the workforce? What career resources a nd opportunities do they still need in order to find upward mobility? Sampling Mi Casa Opportunity Center is an agency dedicated to advancing family prosperity and improving the economic position of those who currently live in poverty, particularly targeting Latino families. In 2008, recognizing greater need and that

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51 advancing self sufficiency required involving the entire family, the agency expanded their programming to include services for youth and families. The agency believes that advancement within a culturally responsive and supportive environment will the cycle Mi Casa offers programs to help its participants develop job skills and take advantage of educational opportunities. The women themselves are focused on gettin g jobs and transitioning off social supports and ultimately becoming self sufficient. The trainin g programs are cost free to participants, well developed, and completed over a relatively short time frame. Significant investment, in terms of money and human capital, are invested in these programs. Women who completed the programs appear to be profess ional, well trained, and ready to go to work. With help from the Mi Casa staff, a flyer was posted asking for volunteers. The sample for this study were three volunteers, all single mothers who had participated in a Mi Casa Opportunity Center career devel opment program. Two of the participants were Latina; the third participant describes herself as white. I met with the three women who contacted me, explained the research proposal, and they agreed to participate in one on one audio recorded interviews with me for two to three months. I wanted to hear their stories, and to understand their dreams and impediments, particularly in the area of careers and self sufficiency. Once I had my participants, I developed a series of questions for use in semi struct ured interviews. These interviews were conducted over a period of three months.

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52 Participants selected the site for the interviews, and interviews were recorded on a tape player. Data Collection Data collection was done by interviewing participants, inter viewing and gathering data from two staff members at Mi Casa, and gathering information from a policy expert from the Colorado Center on Law and Policy. Three one to two hour interviews, one time per month, between September and February, were conducted w ith each of the participants. Two Mi Casa staff members were interviewed for an hour, in order for the researcher to understand the process, the resources currently available, and to look for their perceptions of obstacles and resources that are not avail able as the women receive job training and look for work. Interviews I collected information and narrative portraits of the participants, looking for both resources and challenges, and reporting their emerging stories. The first interview lasted from 45 minutes to an hour. I explained the project and obtained consent and got acquainted with each participant. The second interview lasted an hour to an hour and a half, and was a semi structured interview based on the questions I had developed. The third interview was a follow up interview; I allowed the participants to rev iew their case study to check for accuracy and to fill in any gaps or answer any questions I had after transcribing the first two interviews.

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53 Initial questions asked about their family of origin, their school experiences, their dreams, and their early work experiences. I learned about their perceptions of school, how they came to be in their current situation, and how they gathered information about expectations in their families. I identified resources and safety nets that they are aware of and/or were ta king advantage of, as well as any challenges to getting or keeping a job. Themes that I explored in depth included life events that changed the trajectory of their lives and often hurled them into their current living situation -poverty, homelessness, job lessness. I identified the resources, challenges, and barriers to becoming self sufficient in the context of their world. Mi Casa staff participated in a one hour interview as well, assisting me in understanding the process, the resources currently avail able, and also assessing their perceptions of obstacles and resources that are not available as the women receive job training and look for work. Two one hour interviews were also conducted with a public policy expert, to determine trends and possible fut ure legislation surrounding these issues. Data Analysis As the researcher, I relied on some of the elements of portraiture. Portraiture is a Lightfoot and Davis, 1997, p. 3). Portraiture requires the researcher to document the human experience by meeting with the participants in their own natural setting. Lawrence method framed by the traditions a nd values of the phenomenological paradigm, sharing

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54 many of the techniques, standards and goals of ethnography. But it pushes against the constraints of those traditions and practices in its explicit effort to combine empirical and (pp. 13 14). Lightfoot & Davis, 1997). I interviewed and observed three women, essentially listening to several stories, looking for the common themes around career development barriers, a nd self sufficiency. Interviews were recorded and transcribed. I transcribed all of the interv iews reading the transcription and creating a timeline of the transcripts, I then created case studies, one for each participant. The case studies were loaded into a qualitative software program, Dedoose, for coding purposes. Coding I examined the transcripts and the case studies, looking for the life events that that eith er restricts their self sufficiency or encourages it, the factors that have shaped their sense of self and their perceptions of their ability to reach their career goals and ultimately self sufficiency.

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55 Initially, during the first attempt at coding, I w as looking for themes that described a priori codes that were taken from my proposal, such as habitus, the read the cases, and presented them to my colleagues and faculty mento rs for input, other codes began to emerge. I expanded my coding, based on other themes that were emerging, such and also added some nuances to opportunities and ba rriers. I found that there were some events that were challenging, but were not quite a barrier, in that the challenge might change and alleviate over time. For instance, dropping out of high school might be a challenge, but if the participant was able t o obtain a GED instead, this was then viewed as a resource; therefore, it was not quite a barrier. On the other hand, a legal issue that prevents the participant from being offered certain jobs was seen as a barrier, in that it was a long term problem. W hile each participant had unique challenges and barriers, there were some common themes that began to emerge when the case studies were compared. Despite the fact that all participants began working at an early age, usually around 14 or 15, they did not e xperience promotion or upward mobility in those jobs. All of the participants had quite a bit of work experience, and yet were initially being considered for low paying jobs. Additionally all of the participants experienced issues around housing, transpo rtation, child care, low wage offerings, and complications from the criminal justice system. Only one participant, who had been working for several months when we met, had been promoted to a job with benefits and paid leave.

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56 Limitations and Benefits There are some limitations with case study methodology, mainly in terms of replication of the study. Participants have different stories to tell and different personal experiences. This is a small sample size and was an in depth exploration of the partic job search. part of the story. Hopefully, this is the story of the participants, but it is told by me as the researcher. This methodology is appropriate to illuminate the specifics of their personal challenges and opportunities, but I believe that their issues and experiences may be shared by other single parents currently living in pove rty but trying to become self sufficient. Hopefully, we can understand individual experiences and common successes, in order to develop stronger social safety nets and programs to benefit the entire community. Interview Questions 1. Tell me about yourself. 2. T ell me about life in the family you grew up in. 3. Growing up, what lessons did you learn about education? Careers and Jobs? Self sufficiency? 4. How did you learn what the expectations were for you? 5. What was the highest grade you completed in school? 6. When you think about school, describe what that was like for you.

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57 7. Did you consider yourself as smart, smarter, or not as smart as other kids in your class? 8. What did you dream about doing when you grew up? 9. Tell me about the first job you ever had. 10. Tell me a bit abou t your work history. 11. Tell me what kind of jobs interest you now. 12. What kind of job training have you had? 13. What concerns you about finding/keeping a job?

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58 APPENDIX B SAMPLE OF ANALYSES/ANALYTIC WORK Initially, in developing the codes, I was looking for codes that supported my theoretical framework and my research questions, codes that described social capital, cultural capital, economic capital, barriers, and opportunities. As I transcribed the inter views and wrote the case studies, I added some additional codes, describing some nuances between barriers and challenges and between resources and opportunities. After discussing the codes with my cohort and my faculty mentors, additional themes also emer ged, such as life changing events and life plans. s family, all of the children were taught to fix cars, a skill Beth thinks would have come in handy for a single mother. All of the participants had family support, or social capital. Clover had quite a bit of help from her family, including housing, transportation and child care. Both Beth and talked about the ways they learned ab out specific safety nets through friends or family members, indications of social capital at work. During the interviews, there was also some lack of understanding about some safety nets, such as Section 8 housing and how to go about getting that, proof t hat some kinds of social capital is not available or readily

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59 accessible. Beth was also taking advantage of financial counseling through Mi Casa, to resolve former credit issues. Habitus was demonstrated throughout the case studies as well. All three part icipants were confident about finding work and had persevered through some tough times, demonstrating resiliency. All of them began working at an early age at a variety of jobs and had worked steadily. All three participants thought that they were good s tudents and recognized the value of education and job training in getting better jobs. Beth recognized the impact of not having a GED on her job search. She also wanted that GED to prove that she was capable and was taking steps to start the process. Ca rla worried about the possibility of relapse and losing her child, but her resolve was impressive. All three participants described themselves as smart, and believed they were sufficient. All three talked about plans and dreams for their future. TABLE A1 CODES AND DESCRIPTIONS USED IN ANALYSIS A PRIORI CODES ABBREVIATION DESCRIPTION HABITUS HAB Aspects of how the participant views herself; her beliefs, cultural values, habits, learned behaviors, family of origin, ideas about her own potential CAPITAL CAP Social, Cultural, or economic capital; the power; how she learns about and connects with resources, skills, interests, family and fr iends BARRIERS BAR Strong barriers to employment, self sufficiency, and upward mobility; low paying jobs; lack of transpor c tation, housing or child care; lack of training or education; involvement or incarceration in the criminal justice system

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60 TABLE A2 SAMPLES OF ANALYTIC EXCERPTS DESCRIPTOR EXCERPT CODES BETH She dropped out of high school when she became pregnant CAP, BAR, LIFEV BETH She never got her GED because she has always had to work jobs that require shiftwork and advance so it is hard to plan or find the time HAB, CAP, BAR CARLA BAR BETH She believes that her job search took more time because many jobs require a GED HAB, BAR BETH HAB, CHA, BAR BETH Getting her kids to school and making sur e there [when they lived in Thornton] I had to tell them all the time, CHA SAFETY NE TS NET Social safety needs provided (or lacking) by state, local, or federal government RESOURCES RES Resources that the participant does have or could access OPPORTUNITIES OPP Opportunities that might contribute to self sufficiency and upward mobility ADDITONAL CODES CHALLENGES CHA Things that were a challenge but not quite a barrier; pregnancy, lack of important resources like internet, kitchen or cooking equipment, lack of space EMERGENT THEMES LIFE EVENT LIFEV An event that altered the course of life for the participant LIFE DREAMS LIFDR Dreams or plans for the future

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61 CARLA If I had a car, I was telling someone yesterday, if I had a car, I would need for nothing BAR, CAP CARLA My daughter was a year, two years, and the other one was 3 months old when he went to prison BAR, CHA CARLA table, not for four kids BAR BETH At Wal mar t, Beth had her job, in addition to food stamps and Medicaid, but then she got off Medicaid, and then when she was fired, she and the kids had no insurance. NET, BAR BETH clean house, they were taught to wash dishes, clothes and things like that CAP, RES CLOVER in exchange she pays rent by giving them her food stamps to help with the family budget. NET, RES, CAP CLOVER They teach you everything you need to know about finding a job RES, HAB CARLA I have a lot of experience in different jobs but it has been so long ago RES, HAB, CHA CLOVER She wants to be a good mother, and learned a lot about newborns from WIC [Women Infant child] subsidy. Her son is still on WIC but she is not because she is no longer pregnant or breast feeding NET, RES BETH She cr edits Mi Casa with turning her life around RES, OPP, HAB BETH Head Frommagiere ( Maitre d' Fromage) which is a job that provides benefits like paid vacation and sick leave OPP CARLA In 2009, Carla moved to Denver and in with her mom. She spent a year and a half not working, getting healthy, and getting off drugs. CAP, OPP, RES

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62 CARLA if I stay there the 2 years, I can either get a car from them OPP, BAR CARLA when you leave there you could have a thousand (dollars) or two OPP, RES, CHA CLOVER Clover recently got enrolled in college OPP, CAP BETH She and the kids lived with her ex husband so that they could share the rent very well CAP CARLA TANF and food stamps and has a child care subsidy NET CLOVER She was required to go to Mi Casa to keep her full benefits, like food stamps and TANF CAP, NET CLOVER her son is in full time child care (CCCAP) NET CARLA She is on TANF and food stamps and has a child care subsidy (CCCAP) NET CLOVER She has an RTD pa ss, which she uses if she can't get her parents to take her RES, CAP CLOVER Currently Clover is on food stamps, TANF, and child care, and her son gets WIC until he is 5 years old NET CARLA but no one will hire her, she thinks because she has a felony for child endangerment even thought it was almost 10 years ago BAR, LIFEV CARLA She dropped out of high school CAP, BAR, LIFEV CARLA My daughter was a year, two years, and the other one was 3 months old when he went to prison the first time. CAP, LIFEV, BAR

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63 BETH she and her kids became homeless for a time BAR, CAP, LIFEV CARLA When I enrolled, my mom was going to have my sister pick me up after she got off work and she there was a couple of times I got rides go very well. Hah. I would end up having to fight men off, and stuff like that, so I just had to drop out. BAR, CAP BETH when she was fired, she and the kids had no insurance BAR, CAP CLOVER Wa rren Village NET, BAR, RES CLOVER To take her son to child care, it is two buses, to 1, walk to Sheridan and Warren to day care, pick him up, walk back to Sheridan, take the 50 BAR CARLA I ended up doing double shifts and days BAR CLOVER After the man found out she was pregnant times, and then got arrested again. He got arrested shortly after they found out [that she was pregnant] s county. Had a court date of a ugust 1 and then I never heard BAR, LIFEV, CAP CLOVER She conducts her social life on Mocospace, similar to facebook and myspace put together. She is gas money yet. But she is confident that he is going to get the gas money and come and visit her and that he is going to su pport her eventually. Although she CAP CARLA t see myself in Section 8 housing; I HAB

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64 APPENDIX C PROSPECTUS/PROPOSAL: PROBLEM STATEMENT & REVIEW President Barack Obama, 2014 State of the Union Address INTRODUCTION Growing up, I often heard the United States referred to as the Land of Opportunity. We were taught in schoo l about the American Dream, which is defined as a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work. I believed that the Unit ed States was a great county with immense wealth, and that if you worked hard, you would be successful. The United States is a great country with untold wealth for many; but there are many more who do not experience equal opportunity and who live in extre me poverty. The gap between the rich and the poor in the United State has expanded yearly for the past two decades; 20% of wealthy Americans hold 85% of the wealth in the United States. Forty percent of Americans hold a mere .3% of the wealth in this cou ntry (Pressman & Scott, 2009). Sommeiller and Price (2014) contend that this income gap has widened in all 50 states This widening an even larger number of people do not even in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. This project will look at the definitions of poverty, using both economic and material measures. I will also explore the lack of other necessary resources that contribut e to poverty. I will investigate the social and cultural capital that the working poor may have access to, and the capital they do not have access to. I will look at some

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65 of the barriers and challenges faced by those who live below the poverty line, as w ell as the social safety nets and opportunities that they may have. Problem o f Practice Ho ppe, Gonzalez, Maxey, & Terrell, 2010, p 126). The current Federal guideline across the United States, established by the Department of Health and Human Services, of poverty for a family of four is an income level below $23,550 (Federal Register, 2013), b ased on poverty thresholds. But poverty is more than just a lack of income or a lack of wealth. A poverty threshold represents basic needs: food, clothing, shelter, utilities and small amount for other needs such as transportation, personal care, househ old supplies (Short, Iceland and Dalaker, 2002). Medical Students or graduate students might qualify as poor, because they are living on little or no income. On the other hand, they often have resources other than income that keep them from living in pov erty. In 20 11, it was estimated that 42.6 milliion Americans live in poverty, and that one third of these are children (United States Census Bureau, 2012). Poverty can be short lived, temporary or chronic Exactly how many years constitute chronic pov erty is a subject of some debate, but Hulme and Shepherd (2003) define it as poverty which has been ongoing for more than five years. Research demonstrates that those who are poor and remain poor for an extended period of time have a high probability of r emaining poor (Corcoran, 1995; Yaqub, 2000). People who are poor for most of the course of their lives also have a high probability of passing on poverty to the next generation (Hulme &

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66 poor parents There are two basic types of poverty measures, absolute measures and relative measures. Absolute measures refer to the inability to meet basic survival needs, such as as standards of living rise (Iceland, 2012, p.21). Both of these are valid measures, and both need to be considered when looking at poverty. Capitalism and the economic climate drive growth and inequality in America; employers seeking to maximize profit may offer lower wages; in times of recession, stratification across social groups that determines who 143). There are many broader implications of poverty; those without adequate income are also often relegated to the poorest communities where resources and opportunities are stretched to the limit, and therefore there is a smaller chance for those living there to develop the necessary skills or ge t the education needed to reverse the cycle of poverty and provide upward mobility for its residents. relationship between neighborhood disadvantage and crime is quite strong. Oth er empirical research ties neighborhood disadvantage/disorganization to early sexual

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67 activity, low educational attainment, dropping out of school, violence, affiliation with deviant peers, and a medley of anti While not all poor neighborhoods suffer the same adverse conditions, it is still likely that there are gaps and barriers in poorer communities that prevent opportunities for upward mobility. New thinking about poverty expands its definition from simple economics to a wider view; can those in poorer situations access necessary capital, in terms of social capital and cultural capital? Are they more vulnerable and feeling more powerless to improve their situation? In addition to this, the inequality of th e situation brings about additional concerns for public policy makers (Shaffer, 2001). Broader Implications There is a growing concern among those in public policy and academic circles that an even greater number of Americans are vulnerable economically; current factors social safety nets reached record levels (Sandoval, Rank and Hirschl, 2009, p 717). The income gap results in higher wages for those at the top, but those at the bottom are eve n more disadvantaged given the reality of low paying jobs. Half the jobs in this country pay less than $34,000 per year, which would put a family of four below the

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68 poverty line (Edelman, 2012). According to Mishel, Bivens, Gould & Shierholz (2012), wage s of middle class Americans are lower than they have been in over a decade. There the fact that the United States has virtually the highest GNP per capita in the world, it has higher levels of both absolute and relative poverty than other rich countries in Northern For two parent families, some of the effects of lower wages can be mitigated by t he fact that both parents work and contribute to household expenses. According to Iceland (2012) economic hardship than married coup live on, then how can the working poor ever become self sufficient? Also, poor families have less political voice, resulting in policies and institutional structures that may not work for them. Couple d with that, women face even more obstacles in terms of gender discrimination and income. (Edelman, 2013, p. 36) Women are far more likely to be the head of the single parent households (Iceland, 2012) yet they are more likely to earn less money and have fewer resources than a man. Generally, poverty refers to a lack of money, but it also involves other types of material deprivation. Those without internet may lose out on jobs where the applicat ion is online. Those without telephones may not have a means for a prospective employer to contact them in a timely fashion. Without a car, especially in a big city, transportation

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69 can be onerous and most definitely requires additional time and effort to get to work and the child care center. State and federal governments have long tried to develop social safety nets to is a metaphor for external supports that have be en designed to minimize the risk and to protect the child as the family copes with the multiple risk factors associated with by Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) or food stamps. It might be temporary shelters for the homeless, or an educational program like Head Start which is meant to alleviate some of the negative effects of poverty. The Criminal Justice System Those who live in poverty and have been adjudicated in the criminal justice system find this a severe impediment to finding work, much less upward mobility. The criminal justice system is often overly harsh on those in poorer neighborhoods. Without resou rces, education, and with few prospects, arrests are high, especially among young men of color. primarily as a tool of social control, and thus the extent or severity of punishment is o ften Alexander, 2012, p. 6). The United States has a higher incarceration rate than other industrialized countries ( Tonry, 2004) and the rate is particularly high among persons of color (Alexander, 2012). Felons canno license; so finding work can be problematic. Undocumented immigrants are viewed by seen as criminals deserving of deportation or

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70 worse; drug addicts who need treatment are often punished in the crimi nal justice system instead (Alexander, 2012). And while everyone is entitled to legal representation, the quality and the information may vary; a defendant may pay their debt to society, but there at may follow them for many years. Implications in Colorado The state of Colorado has experienced the same economic problems that have troubled the rest of our country in recent years, in terms of declining wages and job opportunities and the widening inc ome gap. Colorado has established a self sufficiency standard, which is defined as the income needed, by family type and size, to be self sufficient, without public or private assistance. According to Pearce (2011), the self easure of economic security that is based on the costs of the basic needs for working families: housing, child care, food, health care, transportation, and miscellaneous items, as well as the cost of taxes and the impact of tax credits. As Colorado recover s from its recent economic downturn, long term economic prosperity will require responsible planning that puts all Coloradans on the path to self (Pearce, 2011,executive summary). The self sufficiency standard for Colorado takes into account the size of the family and the geographical location of the family within the state of Colorado. sufficiency standard, on average a single person must make $8.56 an hour, or $17,843 annually, to be self sufficient; this is gr eater than the current minimum wage requirement in Colorado of $7.36 an hour. One parent supporting two children needs to make $17.76 an hour, or nearly $44,000 annually, to be self sufficient.

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71 The Cliff Effect Social safety nets were created to give assi stance to those in need, but they can be pulled away, often abruptly, as people try to improve their situation. Many citizens in Colorado suffer from what is known as the cliff effect (Dinah, Chau, & Cauthen, 2007). The cliff effect is the point at which a person or family comes to the financial cliff and goes over; the wage earner gets a promotion and a raise, and then loses eligibility for the federal and/or state social safety net s/he is currently receiving, leaving them with a lower total income. Fo r instance, a raise from a $10 an hour job to a $12 an hour job might be enough to caus e to cover the cost of the child care. This creates a system of dependence; some parents might find lower paying jobs rather than take a raise or a promotion, to avoid losing their social safety net eligibility, and so they remain dependent on social subsidies. The Promise Neighborhood Grant The Obama administration proposed a project, called the Promise Neighborhood Grant, which would provide dollars to nonprofits and universities in 20 disadvantaged communities, so that they could develop appropriate social safety nets to counteract the effects of poverty (Toch, 2010). The grant envisions that c hildren who will grow up in neighborhoods where there is family and community support, with adequate resources in the community to enable children to get an education, find work, and in general rise above the poverty level and become self sufficient. In C olorado, the disadvantaged neighborhood identified as an appropriate region which could benefit from this grant money is known as the Northwest Promise

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72 Neighborhood, and is an area of Denver whose borders are from 52 nd avenue to 6 th Avenue and from I 25 to Sheridan. This Northwest Promise Neighborhood (NWPN) has a population of 70,000 people, and nearly 17,000 of them live below the poverty threshold. The children from this neighborhood attend Denver Public Schools, where 80% of the children live in pover ty. The purpose of the grant was to cover services from cradle to career to provide resources and ensure the success of families. According to agencies in the area to l ink the continuum of services from cradle to career and to effectively reach out to family and community members to ensure access to services (p. 3).There are numerous resources and agencies, or safety nets, providing services in the neighborhood, but ther e is often inadequate funding and personnel to meet the needs of this large, diverse community (Zion, 2012). Although this grant was not funded in the initial offering, this research proposal will explore possible gaps and barriers in this neighborhood, to give more leverage to the grant in the future. Mi Casa Opportunity Center is one agency providing services and resources to those living the NWPN. Although Mi Casa Opportunity Center is not located in the NWPN, it is committed to improving the lives o f those who do, and it runs after school programs and provides family services in NWPN neighborhood schools. Mi Casa was established in 1976 by eight Head Start mothers who wanted a safe place where women could get education and job training, support for the job search process, and resources for

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73 ( http://www.micasaresour cecenter.org/ ). Mi Casa focuses its resources in three main areas: Career Development, which is a practical pathway for workers to gain employment and overcome barriers to a successful career; Business Development, which is designed to help entrepreneurs establish their own businesses and; Youth and Family programs, which offer out of school enrichment experiences to middle and high school youth. Conceptual Framework To guide my thinking, I reviewed the concepts of cultural, social and economic capital, i nitially developed by Pierre Bourdieu, a French sociologist. The three types of s is often based on financial accumulation. Most Americans consider themselves to be in the middle class, based on their economic position. However, Bourdieu expanded the concept of capital to encompass not only financial resources, but how people use ca pital to compete for power and resources (Allen, 2011). Bourdieu named three types of capital: social capital, which looks at connections to others; economic capital, which explores the financial situation; and cultural capital, which is what one brings to the table, in terms of who they are. Cultural capital refers to the values and ideas that have been passed down from generation to generation, and the cultural and linguistic resources which frames how each of us views our world.

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74 culture, traditions, norms), objectified (things that one owns), and institutionalized (Winkle Wagner, 2010, status hav e more cultural and social capital, and more social standing, or power. Wagner, 2010, p. 5). According to Winkle Wagner, these resources incl schools, and preferences in food, music, and art. These resources are used in social preferen s us a lens to think about and attempt to values, how it connects one to the larger community, and how the larger community influences the decisions one makes about the use of resources. Understanding the community of the participants within the study helps to understand how one interacts with others and just how much help one can depend on within that community and within their own informal social networks. This speaks to the actual or potential power one can access because of their connections and interactions with others.

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75 Bourdieu recognized the connection between economic position and educational ual social Overall, the amount of social capital that one economic, cultural, Bourdieu, 1986, p. 249). According to Carpiano (2006), we must consider the social networks, the actual and potential resources that belong to that network, and the those resources when studying the effect and use of social safety nets within the community. Social capital can be a positive or negative force; it can influence some to access resources and exclude others from accessing th ose same resources within a them that is at the heart of the idea of social capital. Looking at the culture of the community within the larger Northwest Promise nei ghborhood, it is important to understand the views and needs of the participants. Social capital encompasses family, friends, neighbors; these are important assets that can be relied upon in times of need. Stephens (2008) suggests that poorer neighborhoo ds may have more local resources, and might be more adept at networking because they are poor. According to Woolcock and Narayan (2000), one defining feature of being poor is that one may be excluded from certain social networks that can be used to secure jobs and obtain decent housing. It will be important to look at the community and whether or not the participants are included or excluded from accessing the available resources. Developing appropriate safety nets requires one to understand the perspect ive of those in

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76 the community, as they are the ones to define what their needs are, and how they want their needs to be met. habitus is a construct that helps one understand human w of the world, and assumes that some things are taken for granted, or that there are certain unconscious rules that one structure of the social world that surrounds him /her through habitus (p.424). Habitus It is necessary to consider both one's resources (capital) and the orientation one has toward using those Overall, I will be listening to the participants in my study, trying to understand the community in which they live, what they view as their opportunities, resources and challenges. I would like to identify not only gaps in social safety nets, but also to hope to understand their motivation for work and their choices surrounding wo rk and family, and how they use their social and cultural capital within the community, and how they develop motivation for self sufficiency. Significance of Project Considering, the widening gap in wealth, and the high Colorado self sufficiency standard, it is important to understand the depth and breadth of poverty in the Northwest Promise Neighborhood. With limited dollars and growing numbers of those who need

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77 help, it is imperative to look at available resources, or social safety nets, and ensuring th at the safety nets do provide the support necessary to provide opportunities for upward mobility and self sufficiency. These findings could provide insight into creating more effective policies and social supports for families who are trying to climb out o f poverty. Often, the jobs available to these families are minimum wage and, consequently, not enough to adequately support families. Social safety nets provided by federal, state and local governments are often not enough, or structured in a way that fa milies can maximize earnings.