Work and Welfare Strategies among Single Mothers in Rural New England: The Role of Social Networks and Social Support


This paper examines how community, social, and interpersonal networks are associated with reliance on work or welfare among rural single mothers. Based on telephone interviews with single mothers in rural northern New England, the data were used to measure the effects of demographic characteristics, community context, informal and formal social networks, and perceived social support on employment, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and other service use. Demographic factors were related to work and welfare as expected, with education having a particularly important effect on a mother s likelihood of being employed. Informal networks were more important than formal networks for both TANF receipt and reliance on other types of assistance. Social support from friends and family decreased reliance on public assistance, although social support from family increased the likelihood of working. There was a consistent effect of length of residence for all outcomes; the longer a woman had lived in her community, the less likely she was to rely on public assistance and the more likely she was to be working. Policy implications of these findings are discussed.



Publication Date

Spring 2007

Journal Title

Community Development


Taylor & Francis

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Document Type