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stigma. Goffman identifies different levels of passing activities. The discreditable indi-
vidual may unintentionally engage in passing; engage in passing “for fun”; engage in
passing for nonroutine or routine daily occasions; or “completely pass … in all areas
of life, the secret being known to the passer himself” (Goffman 1963, 79). Given the
natureofpassing,adiscreditable individualcanexperienceanactofdiscrediting,which
reassigns the individual as discredited. According to Goffman, however, the means by
which one employs passing or covering-up strategies “are quite similar … and in some
cases identical” (Goffman 1963, 102).
The literature on welfare stigma and management has illuminated the various ways
welfare dependent women have negotiated welfare stigma. Drawing upon Goffman's
depth to which welfare recipients internalize the social stigma associated with welfare
dependency and the range of stigma coping strategies that welfare recipient's employ
to manage, resist, and challenge the stereotypes they face (Briar 1966; Goodban 1985;
Rank 1994; Roger-Dillons 1995; Jarret 1996; Kaplan 1997; McCormack 2004, 2005;
Latimer 2006; Cleaveland 2008; Reutter et al. 2009). 3 These studies found that stigmat-
ized individuals employed collective or individual responses for managing stigmatizing
labels, perceptions, and treatment. In particular, welfare recipients “respond[ed] to [so-
cial] stigma with a variety of cognitive and behavioral strategies that reflect[ed] their
efforts to reconcile their “social” and “personal” identities” (Reutter et. al. 2009, 297).
The literature highlights five stigma management strategies: avoidance, passing, seek-
ing social support, self-promotion, and social distancing. In this chapter we focus on
passing, concealment, and covering-up stigma management strategies utilized to facilit-
ate social class mobility into racially exclusive and class segregated white, middle-class
communities. These strategies enable mothers to access resources denied to whites and
ethnic minorities living in lower-income communities.
The welfare stigma management literature (Roger-Dillons 1995; Kaplan 1997; Sec-
to improve their interpersonal experiences by passing as nondeviants. Welfare recipi-
ents, along with other economically disadvantaged groups, “can minimize their poverty
status by convincing others that they are not poor” (Latimer 2006, 91). For example,
Seccombe's (1998) research found that some welfare recipients attempted to pass as
part of the middle class by not identifying their welfare use. These women often used
clothes and other social status markers to signify their status as part of the middle class.
In her study of black teenage motherhood, Kaplan (1997) found that teen mothers used
“covering-up” strategies to mask their welfare recipient status. In particular, welfare re-
cipients “dressed up” or didn't “carry themselves as poor” in order to avoid recognition
and “to make [themselves] less vulnerable to the stigma associated with [black] welfare
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