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The Continuum of Connection: Low-income Families and Economic Support during the Great Recession

May 2012

Kristin Seefeldt, Indiana University and Meredith Horowski, University of Michigan

Download '2012-11-npc-working-paper.pdf'.


Interest in the “disconnected,” that is, low-income families who appear to have no earnings and receive no welfare or other cash assistance, has been growing in recent years. Most research has focused on a narrowly defining and then counting and describing this group.  Yet, such a limited definition does not: 1) capture families who are inadequately connected to work or other sources of support; 2) provide insight about the circumstances leading to disconnection; 3) nor uncover the challenges families face in becoming and staying connected to sources of support, particularly during the economic downturn. In this paper we propose a new lens through which to examine “disconnectedness” that is a multi-dimensional continuum of connection to cash resources and other supports. We apply this continuum to qualitative data to illustrate the circumstances that lead to a spell of disconnection and the challenges in connecting to public programs.

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