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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Welfare Reform and the Revitalization of Inner City Neighborhoods by James Jennings (Black American and Diasporic Studies Series: Michigan State University Press) What is the institutional impact of welfare reform on community-based organizations? Welfare Reform and the Revitalization of Inner City Neighborhoods sets out to find the answer to this question. Unlike many studies that treat children and individuals of families as the units for analyzing the effects of public policy, James Jennings uses a case-study approach involving three low-income neighborhoods in Massachusetts . Using this method, Jennings , Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University , assesses the effects of welfare reform based on the neighborhood, not the individual. The significance of Jennings ’s work shows an inconsistency in the increasing call upon foundations and government for building social capital and civic participation as a response to problems faced by inner-city communities, as well as the institutional effects of welfare reform.

Sections include:

  • The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996
  • The Impact of Welfare Reform on Black and Latino Neighborhoods
  • The End of Welfare, or Ending Neighborhood Revitalization in Poor Communities?
  • Appendix A: Interview Questions and Information
  • Appendix B: Visual Presentation of Racial Dimensions of Welfare Reform in Massachusetts

In evaluating the book, let’s use the words of Robert Fisher, Professor and Director, Urban and Community Studies, University of Connecticut :

At a time when central city neighborhoods are trapped by both increasing deprivation and a reactionary politics that inflicts more pain, James Jennings’s Welfare Reform and the Revitalization of Inner City Neighborhoods provides a powerful argument for both the value of community organizing in the inner city and the role of recent welfare policy in undermining civil commitment and economic revitalization in these poor communities. Based on investigation of largely African-American and Latino neighborhoods in three cities in Massachusetts , this superb study breaks new ground, extending national debates about social capacity by underscoring the severe constraints and barriers contemporary welfare policy poses to community-based organizations and inner-city residents.


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