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Abstract

In recent years, legislators have called upon private nonprofit and proprietary organizations to assume a larger role in provision of public benefits to poor persons. Little research, however, has examined poor people's willingness to use nonprofit agencies in lieu of public welfare. This analysis draws data from over 2 years of fieldwork and in-depth interviews with twenty poor women in Philadelphia. I demonstrate that decisions to use nonprofits are contingent upon stigma, information, practical predicaments (e.g., agency hours), and perceived need. I explore the implications of these impediments in a post-welfare reform landscape, while focusing on how decisions to use private services differ from those to use public welfare. One cannot assume that because people have needs they will use nonprofit services to meet them.

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