Stretched Thin—Book About Welfare Reform Written by UO Researchers Is Up for Prestigious Award

Authors Sandra Morgen (left), Joan Acker, and Jill Weigt.

A book about poor families and welfare written by three feminist scholars—an anthropologist and two sociologists—is a finalist for the prestigious C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems. Stretched Thin: Poor Families, Welfare Work, and Welfare Reform was written by Sandra Morgen, Joan Acker, and Jill Weigt and published by Cornell University Press in December 2010.

Sandra Morgen is vice provost for Graduate Studies/associate dean of the UO Graduate School, professor of anthropology, and former director of the Center for the Study of Women in Society. Joan Acker is professor emerita of the UO Department of Sociology and the first director of CSWS. UO graduate Jill Weigt is associate professor of sociology at California State University-San Marcos. This book is based on a three-year, multi-method study of welfare restructuring in Oregon.

Stretched Thin gives an “on the ground” account of doing welfare reform from the perspectives of clients, agency workers, and administrators. The authors assess the outcomes and suggest new policies to deal with poverty and economic disparities. The study, a project of the CSWS Women in the Northwest Research Initiative, was partially funded by CSWS, with other funds from the Oregon Department of Human Resources.

The C. Wright Mills Award, established in 1964, is made annually and carries with it a stipend of $500 for the author(s) of the winning book. The 2010 award will be presented at the 61st Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, NV, August 19-21, 2011.

C. Wright Mills wrote in The Power Elite that: “Only when mind has an autonomous basis, independent of power, but powerfully related to it, can mind exert its force in the shaping of human affairs. This is democratically possible only when there exists a free and knowledgeable public, to which [people] of knowledge may address themselves, and to which [people] of power are truly responsible.” Consistent with Mills’ dedication to a search for a sophisticated understanding of the individual and society, the award will be given for that book published in 2010 that most effectively:

  1. critically addresses an issue of contemporary public importance
  2. brings to the topic a fresh, imaginative perspective
  3. advances social scientific understanding of the topic
  4. displays a theoretically informed view and empirical orientation
  5. evinces quality in style of writing
  6. explicitly or implicitly contains implications for courses of action.