Many Americans living in poverty rely on a constellation of social services to meet their consumption needs. This article explores the conditions under which social service programs enhance or detract from holistic well-being, from recipients’ perspectives. Depth interviews with 45 rural and urban recipients reveal, through a power–justice–access model, that holistic well-being extends beyond access to social service programs to include power to choose and control resource outcomes and justice (respect) in recipients’ experiences with elements of the social service ecosystem (design, practices, actors, resources). Theoretically, focusing on the social service ecosystem allows a broader understanding of holistic well-being than is possible through a resource-based or dyadic perspective. In terms of policy, the findings suggest the need to include subjective, versus solely objective, approaches in assessing the performance of the social service ecosystem in meeting consumption needs. Finally, the authors offer a practical principle termed “sensitized standardization,” whereby, at the local level, needs are addressed in relation to the context of recipients’ daily lives and the macro structure of the social service ecosystem.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Business and International Management
- Economics and Econometrics