Welfare, poverty, TANF, workfare, rural, organization, goals, success, casework


A great deal of research has explored welfare agency caseworkers, especially how they use discretion. Paperwork in county welfare bureaucracies, however, is often taken-for-granted by caseworkers and researchers studying welfare. In this case study of a county welfare program in rural North Carolina, I focus on how caseworkers use paperwork through document analysis, interviews, and observation data. My findings illustrate caseworkers spend far more time on paperwork than they actually spend assisting program participants find employment. Finally, I show how caseworkers use paperwork to feel effective in a job that offers little to help clients move from welfare to work.

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