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Cheating WelfarePublic Assistance and the Criminalization of Poverty$

Kaaryn S. Gustafson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780814732311

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814732311.001.0001

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(p.203) Appendix B: Interview Schedule

(p.203) Appendix B: Interview Schedule

Cheating Welfare

Kaaryn S. Gustafson

NYU Press

I’m going to ask you some questions about your experiences with the welfare office. You are, of course, free not to answer any questions or to end the interview at any time.

Household/Family Composition

Do you live with other people? (How many? How are they related to you? How old are they? What kinds of income do they receive?)

Are the members of your household receiving welfare this month? (What kind[s]? Can I ask how much you receive?)

How many people do you have to support in your household?

Do you have kids in school or child care? (How many? What kind of school or child care program?)

Are you yourself included or excluded from the people receiving aid in your house?

Welfare History

When did you first go on welfare? (Why was that? What types of aid have you received?)

How did you know to go on aid?

Were you on welfare anytime before? (Why did you go off? What type of aid? How long were you off? When did you next go on welfare again? Why?)

Have you ever received other types of benefits such as Workers’ Comp., Unemployment, or Social Security? (When? For how long? What were the circumstances?)

Did your family receive welfare when you were growing up?

(p.204) Predictions of Continued or Future Welfare Use

How much longer do you think you’ll need to be on welfare?

How much longer do you think you will actually receive welfare?

What would have to happen for you not to have to use welfare?

What would happen if something happened to your welfare?

Neighborhood and Social Support Information

How would you describe the neighborhood where you live?

How long have you lived there?

Are most people in your neighborhood working? Receiving aid?

Do you have relatives or friends nearby? Do they help you out in any way?

Do you receive any help from your kids’ father(s)?

Meeting Essential Needs

I would imagine it’s tough to get by on welfare.

  • How do you make ends meet?

    • Child support?

    • Help from relatives?

    • Help from friends?

    • Share household expenses?

    • Work? (What type? How much does it pay? On or off the books?)

    • Other ways?

It’s hard to feed a family. How do you manage?

    • School breakfast/lunch programs?

    • Food stamps?

    • Food pantries or giveaways?

    • Share food?

    • Shopping strategies?

Have you and your family had medical care? How do you cover the costs?

    • Medi-Cal?

    • Private insurance?

    • Other?

What do you do for transportation?

    • How much does it cost you?

    • Is transportation a problem for you now or has it been in the past?

(p.205) Housing/Homelessness

Do you have stable housing?

    • Do you feel safe where you live?

    • How much do you pay for rent each month?

    • How much do you have to pay for utilities?

    • Have you had problems with housing?

Amount of Welfare Benefits

You mentioned before that you receive ($____) a month in welfare (or How much welfare do you get?)

    • Is this enough?


Do you receive any other help from the welfare office?

    • Help with transportation?

    • Help with child care?

    • Help with educational expenses?

    • Substance abuse or domestic violence counseling?

Perception of Need

How much money would you need to get by in a month?

Unofficial Sources of Information

Do you know other people who are on welfare? What sorts of things do they do to make ends meet?

Do you talk with other people on welfare and share information on rules, caseworkers, or different programs?

Did you ever get or give any advice on how to apply for programs or how to report information?

(p.206) Familiarity with Welfare Rules

When you went on welfare, did someone in the office explain the rules to you?

Did you understand them all?

Are some confusing?

    • If so, which?

If you had questions about the rules, who would you ask?

Knowledge of the Rules

I imagine you have to report information about your income to the welfare office from time to time.

    • How often do you have to do this?

    • What do you have to report and do you have to submit proof?

    • Is there some money you do not have to report?

    • Do you have to report who is living in your house?

    • Do you have to report about what other people in your house are earning?

    • Does the welfare office have rules about receiving money from friends?

    • Do you know of any rules about how long you can be on aid (time limits)?

    • Do any time limits apply to you? Why or why not?

    • What are the time limits?

    • When does your time run out?

    • Do you know if the welfare office adjusts your aid if you have a baby?

    • Do you know if anything happens to your aid if you are charged with having or using drugs?

I imagine there are a lot of rules and requirements about training and work.

    • What does the welfare office require you to do each month for work? (How many hours? What type of activities?)

    • Are you in school?

    • Do you receive any kind of educational assistance from the welfare office?

    • Did you drop out of school while on welfare?

    • Do you think you need more schooling or training?

    • Are you working now? (What do you do? How many hours? What’s your pay? Do you report this to the welfare office?)

    • Have you had (other) jobs in the past? (Types? Pay? Length of employment?)

(p.207) Questions of Noncompliance and Resistance

What do you think happens if someone fails to meet their work requirements?

What do you think happens if someone breaks the rules?

Have you ever knowingly had to break the rules? (Did anything happen? What?)

Do you know of other people who have broken the rules? (Do you know any of them personally? Do you know if something happened as a result? What?)

Have you ever kept things from your eligibility worker or bent the truth about money you received during the month in order to improve your benefits?

Have you had any unreported cash income? (Why or why not? If so: When? For how long?)

Did you get caught? (If so, how do you think you got caught? What happened?)

What should be against the welfare rules?

What should happen to the people who break those rules?

Have you ever kept things from your eligibility worker or bent the truth about who was living in your house?

Have you ever kept things from your eligibility worker or bent the truth about working or going to school?

Rule Legitimacy

Do you think the reporting rules are fair?

Do you think the work and requirements are fair?

Do you think sanctions are fair?

Do you think the time limits are fair?

Do you think the family cap is fair?

Risk Assessment

How do you think people get caught for bending or breaking the rules?

How often do you think this happens?

Do you think if someone broke the rules, she or he would be likely to get caught?

(p.208) Experiences with Welfare Authorities

Did the welfare office ever contact you about problems with your case? (Why? How did the office contact you? Phone, letter?)

What happened?

How do you feel about it?

Was this fair?

Have you ever gotten any letters or had to see the district attorney about your welfare? (Why? What happened? How do you feel about it?)

How do you feel about people who don’t fully report their income or resources?

Rights Consciousness and Mobilization

Have you ever filed an appeal in the welfare office?

Have you ever gotten advice from a law office? (What was the reason? What happened? Why did you use that office?)

Have you ever been involved in a lawsuit? What were the circumstances?

Have you dealt with the district attorney with any paternity child support matters?

Have you ever been involved in a welfare rights organization?

Are you involved in any community groups? Church groups?

Do you vote? (Which political party do you belong to?)

Personal Information and Background

How far have you gone in school? Are you in school now? (Kind, level)

How old are you?

How would you describe your racial/ethnic background?

Are you currently single, married, divorced, or separated?

Have you ever been married or been married before?

Are you currently in a relationship? How long has the relationship been going on?

Is the other person living with you?


If you could make changes to the welfare system, what would they be?

Has this interview raised any questions you want me to answer or made you think of other things you’d like to mention?