Diving into Faculty Scholarship: Chris Howard

Posted on
September 28, 2022

Our faculty at William & Mary are making great contributions to academia with their research. In our recent blog series, we interview faculty with recent publications for insight into their scholarship.

Chris Howard (Professor of Government and Public Policy) recently published Who Cares: The Social Safety Net in America.

In 2-3 sentences, describe your scholarship to someone unfamiliar with the field.:
This book offers the first comprehensive portrait of the U.S. social safety net, public and private. Part I shows how different parts of society talk about poverty-related needs. In Part II, I analyze how Americans provide income, food, housing, medical care, and daily care to people living in or near poverty.

What was the most exciting/interesting part of this project for you?
This book has lots of individual pieces, and it was hard to connect them all. Fortunately, I came across work by Joan Tronto, a political theorist who has written often about the concept of care. She argues that we should think of care in four distinct stages -- caring about, taking care of, care-giving, and care-receiving. That framework really helped me to identify larger patterns in what we say and what we do about poverty. I'm excited to write a book that is mostly empirical but informed by political theory.

Who might be interested in reading this book? 
Many studies of poverty focus on specific individuals, communities, or social programs. This book tries to give readers a broader understanding of poverty-related needs. I hope that it will be used not only in political science and public policy courses, but also in sociology and social work. In addition, it may appeal to general readers why wonder why the social safety net seems so large and yet so many Americans still struggle to make ends meet.

How did W&M Libraries help support your scholarship? (Services, collections, people):
I conducted most of the research for this book during the COVID-19 pandemic. Having electronic access to polling databases, books, journals, and newspapers was really helpful.

*For a preview of the book, you can also listen to Howard's recent interview on the No Jargon podcast.

*W&M faculty and staff who wish to be part of this series should complete the form available at: https://guides.libraries.wm.edu/pubpromotion