Married; wife's name Nancy-Ann; children: two sons.Education: Duke University, received degree.
New York Times, New York, NY, currently senior writer based in Washington, DC.
Henry Luce scholar, 1986-87; Pulitzer Prize finalist, 1995, 1998, and George Polk Award, 1999, all for reports on the welfare system; Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government, fellow, 2000; Political Book Award, Washington Monthly, 2004, for American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation's Drive to End Welfare.
American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation's Drive to End Welfare, Viking (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to the Washington Monthly, New Orleans Times-Picayune, and New York Times Magazine.
Journalist Jason DeParle has spent much of his reporting career at the New York Times focusing on the American welfare system and its recipients. His work has garnered him two Pulitzer Prize nominations and a George Polk Award, while his first book, American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation's Drive to End Welfare, earned a Political Book Award from the Washington Monthly. What inspired DeParle to write his book was President Bill Clinton's 1996 welfare reform law known as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which requires many welfare recipients to get jobs in order to receive benefits. DeParle followed three African-American matriarchs and their families for seven years to find out how this policy shift affected their lives.
American Dream is more than just a social tract that provides intimate details on how personal lives are altered by public policy, however. DeParle puts the stories of three related (they are cousins) women—Angela Jobe, Opal Caples, and Jewell Reed—into perspective by tracing their family's history back to their 1830s sharecropping roots and also discussing in thorough detail the political history of the welfare state back to the 1930s. "This interlude," explained Anthony Walton in the New York Times Book Review, "… casts an ever-lengthening shadow over the story of the Caples women, as we gradually come to understand how they and the millions of others like them are pawns in larger political scenarios of which they are only dimly, if at all, aware." DeParle finds that long-held liberal and conservative preconceptions of what is wrong with welfare both have their shortcomings: conservatives are wrong to blame poverty solely on deficiencies in people's character, while liberals are also wrong in explaining it only in terms of past historical injustices. He finds the three women in his book to be both courageous and hard working. The author writes: "The real theme of their early lives was profound alienation—not of hopes discarded but of hopes that never took shape."
Although there is much amiss in the lives of these women and their children, DeParle ultimately sees some cause for hope in that the welfare reform act does appear to be having a positive impact on unemployment and income levels. Critics such as Booklistreviewer Vanessa Bush concluded that American Dream is an "important book," offering a balanced, objective look at this vital issue. Nation writer Jennifer Egan likewise appreciated it as "a nuanced portrait of welfare reform," while Sandra K. Danziger concluded in her Social Service Reviewassessment that DeParle's study will prove to be "a compelling book for courses on social welfare policy at the undergraduate and graduate levels."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
DeParle, Jason, American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation's Drive to End Welfare, Viking (New York, NY), 2004.
America, November 8, 2004, Cecilio Morales, "If You Can Make It There," review of American Dream, p. 24.
American Prospect, November, 2004, Dalton Conley, "Dream On," review of American Dream, p. 38.
Booklist, September 15, 2004, Vanessa Bush, review of American Dream, p. 182.
Business Week, November 29, 2004, "Is Welfare Reform Working?," review of American Dream, p. 24.
Commentary, January, 2005, Kay S. Hymowitz, "Off the Dole," review of American Dream, p. 70.
Mother Jones, September-October, 2004, Scott Duke Harris, review ofAmerican Dream, p. 87.
Nation, December 20, 2004, Jennifer Egan, "False Promises," review of American Dream,p. 36.
National Review, November 29, 2004, Robert Rector, "Lifting Up the People," review of American Dream, p. 58.
New Republic, October 11, 2004, Jacob S. Hacker, "After Welfare," review of American Dream, p. 41.
Newsweek, January 10, 2005, Weston Kosova, "Welfare As They Know It; a New Book Looks at Three Families on and off the Dole," review of American Dream,p. 54.
New York Times Book Review, September 26, 2004, Anthony Walton, "Welfare As We Knew It," review of American Dream, p. 16.
Policy Review, December, 2005, Amy L. Wax, "Too Few Good Men," review of American Dream, p. 69.
Publishers Weekly, July 26, 2004, review of American Dream, p. 47.
Social Service Review, December, 2005, Sandra K. Danziger, review of American Dream, p. 732.
Washington Monthly, April, 2005, "The Washington Monthly's 2004 Annual Political Book Award Winner," p. 4.
Jason DeParle Home Page,http://www.jasondeparle.com(July 23, 2006).