Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Serving the poor: A comparative case study of an urban and a rural county in North Carolina
by Seale, Elizabeth Kelley, Ph.D., North Carolina State University, 2010, 276; 3429721
Abstract (Summary)

In this dissertation I find that changes associated with welfare policy, federal devolution, and the global economy constrain service providers and communities, but that local factors in the two counties mediate how organizational actors adapt to these challenges. I use global political economic theory, organizational theory, and theories of inequality to investigate how local actors address poverty in their communities. Specifically, I examine through a comparative case study how government and nonprofit service providers in two North Carolina counties cope with challenges that derive from global and national levels as well as local factors to serve the poor. I rely on extensive interviews, observations, and secondary data. I find that officials in the rural county are severely constrained in their ability to address poverty, due to lower organizational capacity and very limited financial and social resources. The implications of poverty policy for rural and urban areas differ. Not only has inequality within place been exacerbated by recent national and global trends, but inequality between places is aggravated as well. Further, most resources in the urban county are used in ways that reinforce dependence on the low-wage labor market. In both counties services are disciplinary in nature, reflecting the neoliberal environment in which service providers operate. Only in some cases—and only in the urban county—do agencies address the market's inadequacies and general issues of class, race, and gender inequality. In fact, only when there is high organizational capacity, some autonomy, and significant embeddedness in the community, do I find local leaders who are willing to stop regulating the poor as should-be low-wage workers.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Schulman, Michael D., Fave, L. Richard Della
School: North Carolina State University
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-A 71/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Public policy, Organizational behavior, Demography
Keywords: Neoliberalism, North Carolina, Poor, Rural welfare, Urban welfare
Publication Number: 3429721
ISBN: 978-1-124-27716-5
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