Document Type

Student Paper

Publication Date



This paper focuses on two major policy flaws that are rooted in the racist stereotype of the “welfare queen.” These policies work together to punish single motherhood and deny poor women the ability to control their own reproductive futures. They were enacted under the guise that they will stop the cycle of poverty. In reality, they drive women and families deeper into it.

First, in the background section, this paper gives an overview of the history of the “welfare queen” myth and the dramatic changes in the U.S. welfare system. In the analysis section, part one covers the family cap rule, which punishes poor women who have children if they are already on welfare. It also provides a brief history of how welfare benefits have been used to coercively sterilize poor women of color for decades.

Part two covers the lack of adequate funding for contraceptives and abortion care. The two strategies of preventing poor women from procreating, while also barring their access to pregnancy prevention, create an impossible situation for poor women in this country. They are denied the right to have children and they are denied the right to not have children. The biggest problem is the fact that simply because these women are poor, governments believe they have the right to dictate their entire family planning future. This alienates a fundamental right based purely on socioeconomic status.

The final section of this paper presents simple and introductory recommendations for changing our systems of welfare from inherently classist and racist regimes that oppress poor women, to a structure that will return to the original target of eliminating poverty instead of the poor.


This student paper was presented at the 2016 Golden Gate University School of Law Poverty Symposium.