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Episode 253 - Dr. Philip Hong: Support, Employment Hope, and Economic Self-Sufficiency Among Low-Income Jobseekers

Monday, December 03, 2018, 7:37:36 AM

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In this episode, our guest Dr. Philip Hong describes his work exploring how welfare reform efforts play out through the eyes and in the lives of people living them. Utilizing a social justice and person-in-environment perspective, he discusses what he is learning about the role of hope and psychological self-sufficiency as articulated by client recipients.

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Average Rating: 5stars  process vs. product: a focus on psychological self-sufficiency , Sunday, February 10, 2019

By Adrienne :

In this podcast, Dr. Hong suggests that our society's outcome-obsessed perspective often gets in the way of success for people who are living in poverty. Dr. Hong explains that the goal of most income assistance programs (including TANF) is to help recipients achieve "self-sufficiency," which is usually defined as the ability of a person to obtain a job and keep it for at least 12 months. However, Dr. Hong astutely points out that all people, regardless of socioeconomic status, can rate themselves on various degrees of self-sufficiency; and further, that this objective measure of self-sufficiency does not fully capture what it means to be on a path towards improvement and betterment. I found this philosophical and somewhat existential spin on traditional measures of eligibility for income assistance extremely interesting and important, and something that should be discussed more broadly in public policy spheres.

More specifically, Dr. Hong shares his research and experience with the term "psychological self-sufficiency," which focuses on a person's perceived barriers and hope. Dr. Hong suggests that employment assistance programs should focus on helping people to build hope and address barriers to sustained employment, instead of focusing on superficial facets of employment such as interview skills and professional attire. In this podcast, Dr. Hong also proposes a bottom-up approach in the community that encourages employers to balance workplace productivity with a more person-centered approach that allows for added flexibility. Dr. Hong suggests that this would help low-income job-seekers with overcoming some of their barriers, which has a reciprocal effect on their sense of hope.

Overall, this podcast provided a very insightful and refreshing look at how our current system of emphasizing outcomes (must maintain employment for 12 months) can have a discouraging and counterproductive effect on individuals who are working on improving their lives.

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Average Rating: 5stars  great episode, Sunday, February 03, 2019

By Allison Lenart :

I found Dr. Hong’s rhetorical deconstruction of welfare reform policy language to be a very good way of articulating how incomplete US welfare policy is. The reliance on the economy’s labor market is failing to bring people out of poverty, yet policy makers still believe markets and individual effort are enough for one to become economically self-sufficiency. The bottom up approach Dr. Hong emphasizes gives hope that blaming the poor for their plight and considering poverty a personal problem can be broken down to make way for the widespread recognition that poverty is a structural problem of society. I find his research to be particularly moving after having just read $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer, which addresses each of the employment barriers Dr. Hong identifies with individual stories. These stories reveal how challenging it is for those working entry level jobs to find and keep a job due to how perilous and unpredictable employment can be and how little support individuals and families receive navigating these barriers. I love how Dr. Hong conceptualizes a way to use a strengths perspective to generate outcome measures for programs, but Caitlin Beck makes a good point that implementing something like might take up a lot of someone's time. However, his statement at the end about putting himself in place to protect people from being exploited for something that will be used as an “ornament” is reassuring that program development and implementation will be true to the people's needs. This episode is very informative and well worth listening to!

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