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The purpose of this study was to explore low-income women’s perspectives of the shared meaning of work and employment values in their intergenerational family context from…
The purpose of this study was to explore low-income women’s perspectives of the shared meaning of work and employment values in their intergenerational family context from a critical and systemic lens. Participants were rural and urban women from low-income contexts (N = 14). Semi-structured interviews were designed to elicit thick description of lived experiences of work and family. Analyses were conducted using Van Manen’s hermeneutic phenomenology coding process (1990).
Four emergent categories (Purpose to Work, What Work Is, Motherhood and Work, and Loss, Resilience and Work) with 16 themes described work–family integration. These narratives evoked a deep interconnectedness of work, family, and life. Because participants were recruited in locations where they were either already employed or seeking employment, these findings may not represent other women.
Effectiveness of programs and policies could be expanded by incorporating women’s values and motivations for employment and targeting family-level interventions. Programs could better empower women to seek employment and skills training for lasting financial sustainability, rather than just getting any job. Because participants distinguished between careers and jobs based on college education, many felt they could never obtain a career. Additionally, participants described work–family integration, not the prevalent idea of “work–life balance.” Participants described fighting to provide a better life for their children.
This study highlights under-represented perspectives of low-income women about work. Understanding the experiences of low-income women is essential for designing programs and services that will be practical and useful.