Trapped in America's Safety Net

Choosing to Make People Poor
New America

When Professor Andrea Louise Campbell’s sister-in-law, Marcella Wagner, was run off the freeway by a hit-and-run driver, she was seven-and-a-half months pregnant. The good news: she survived and, miraculously, so did her baby. The bad news: accessing the care that Marcella would need for the rest of her life due to a permanent disability would trap her and her family in poverty with no hope of exit. Such is the trade-off created by our nation’s public assistance programs.

As a social policy scholar, Campbell thought she knew a lot about means-tested assistance programs. What she quickly learned was that missing from most government manuals and scholarly analyses was an understanding of how these programs actually affect the lives of the people who turn to them in times of need. And, while this story is tragic, financial precariousness is a common strand for families trapped in America's safety net.

Campbell’s new book, Trapped in America’s Safety Net, goes behind the statistics and ideological battles to find human beings whose prospects are stunted by policies that purport to help them. Please join us for a conversation with the author and other policy experts as we explore the ways that our nation's safety net for disabled and poor individuals and families can lock them in at their lowest point—and how we might change it for the better.

Follow the discussion online using #trappedinthenet and following @AssetsNAF and @NewAmerica.

*Copies of the book will be available for sale at the event. *


Andrea Louise Campbell
Author, Trapped in America's Safety Net: One Family's Struggle
Professor, Department of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Michael Morris
Executive Director, National Disability Institute

Rachel Black
Senior Policy Analyst, Asset Building Program, New America


Pam Fessler
Correspondent, National Desk, NPR