Date of this Version



Harald Schmidt


work requirements, policy, ethics, deservingness, United States, social programs


This thesis looks at work requirements in social programs in the United States and how they relate to notions of deservingness. It begins with an introduction about work requirements, a policy tool that stipulates that individuals must spend a specified amount of time working or engaging in work-related activities in order to be eligible for certain benefits, and discusses the parallels to Victorian-era poor laws. It then provides a very high-level description of the four social programs that will assessed in this thesis: Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and housing assistance. Next, it provides an overview of government documents, polls, and public comments in order to characterize different stakeholders’ justifications for supporting and opposing work requirements. This thesis then analyzes these results to determine that government and public sentiments about work requirements vary greatly, and that a significant proportion of the public opposes work requirements and the concept of deservingness, using Kentucky as a state-level example. Finally, this thesis discusses the ethical implications surrounding deservingness and work requirements, and what the results mean for future policy decisions.



Date Posted: 03 May 2020


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