This compelling look at the lives of welfare recipients shatters many of the myths commonly associated with the system and its participants. "Living on the Edge" considers three questions: Why do people turn to welfare? What is it like to survive on these programmes? And what can we do as a society to address this critical issue? Based on ten years of research, the book follows individuals and families as they apply for and live on public aid to the manner in which they leave the welfare system. Rank's analysis is considerably broader than earlier work in that it captures the experiences of female-headed families, married couples, single men and women, and the elderly. In-depth interviews, longitudinal data, and first-hand observations are used to describe the backgrounds of recipients, their beliefs and hopes, daily routines and problems, work behaviour, and the effect of welfare on family dynamics. Rank's chronicle of the day-to-day encounters of welfare households reveals the many sacrifices and crises that tax ordinary people in extraordinary ways. These experiences shatter the common stereotypes based on laziness and apathy.
By concentrating on a wide range of individuals and families, this study depicts a side of the welfare experience rarely seen and dispels the myth that only the urban underclass - the centre of most policy debate - struggles on welfare. Rank's use of numbers and faces alert us to the fact that welfare recipients share much in common with the rest of the population.
Rank analyzes the several ways of interpreting poverty and the need for welfare, and provides an account of his research on what poor people actually do to make ends meet and how they think about it... Perhaps most poignant is that many of the people Rank spoke with work hard only to lose ground, yet maintain a strong belief in upward mobility and the American dream. New York Times After ten years of intensive study of public welfare programs and welfare recipients, Mark Robert Rank has written a thoughtful book about poor people and their lives... Rank argues that we have got it just about backward again. It turns out, he says, that a lot of assumptions about welfare are simply wrong. Chicago Tribune