This article exposes and critiques the media images of poor women and children that drive legislative debate in social assistance, or welfare public policy issues in the United States. It explores the impact of media images on law-making by focusing on three statutory time periods: 1935, when the Aid to Dependent Children program was initially enacted as part of the Social Security Act; 1967, when the first mandatory work requirements were added to the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program, and the mid-1990s, when states began implementing widely divergent categorical eligibility requirements that restrict benefits in an attempt to change behavior. The author argues that the uni-dimensional, non-normative and racially-defined lens of the images allows the public to devalue and distance themselves from poor women, and encourages politicians to develop policy based on gender, race and class stereotypes.


Originally published in Fordham Urban Law Journal, Vol. 22, No. 4, pp. 1159-1196 (1995).


welfare legislation, poor women, Aid to Dependent Children program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children program, gender, race, class, Clarabel Ventura

Subject Categories

Public welfare, Welfare recipients, Mass media


Social Welfare Law | Women


Fordham University School of Law

Publication Date


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