Government welfare is a program that is under constant scrutiny, but often what is missing from that conversation is consideration of how interaction between case workers and recipients may impact the administration of services. Relatively few studies examine how welfare policy is implemented on the ground level, yet research of this nature is critical to understanding how policy affects individuals seeking public assistance. To address this need, I conducted interviews of both caseworkers and recipients in a county welfare office about the interactions and, in particular, how the stigmatization of poverty affects those interactions. I found that caseworkers have the ability to use discretion to point individuals to additional services but the use of this discretion depends on previous judgments of character. These judgments hinge on whether or not a person is labeled as “deserving” or “undeserving.” My findings focus on interactional elements leading to and resulting from judgment. I also discuss implications for future research and policy relating to welfare.


Fisher, Lisa


Sociology and Anthropology

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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