culture of poverty


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culture of poverty

the way of life developed and reproduced by poor people; an explanation for the existence of POVERTY in terms of the cultural characteristics of the poor themselves. The term was first used by Oscar LEWIS (1961,1968), who emphasized ‘fatalism’ as the particular aspect of UNDERCLASS subculture which ensured the inheritance of poverty. He argued that the CYCLE OF DEPRIVATION was self-perpetuating and that children were quickly socialized into the values and attitudes of being poor. Lewis argued that the ‘culture of poverty’ in underdeveloped societies, typified by a cash economy and high unemployment, inhibited the inculcation of the ‘modern’ values appropriate for social and economic development. The idea of a culture of poverty has been criticized, notably by Valentine (1968), for its concentration on the familial and local view of poverty which largely places responsibility for poverty on the individual and the family rather than examining the external influences which may preclude social and economic development.

As applied particularly to the Third World, the ‘culture of poverty’ argument can be seen as part of the general debate, which emerged from the work of Talcott PARSONS, about the importance of VALUES in helping or hindering the process of ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT. In this way, ‘backward’ values, such as ‘fatalism’ and ‘resignation’, were contrasted with the modernizing values of‘enterprise’ and ‘achievement’ visible in affluent capitalist societies (see also ACHIEVEMENT MOTIVATION).

More recent research suggests that people living in the poor shanty towns described by Lewis do not have a fatalistic attitude within a culture of poverty; rather families and neighbours work together to devise strategies in order to adapt and cope with their changing social and economic circumstances. The impoverished inhabitants of Third World barrios and bidonvilles are far from apathetic. Research has clearly shown (e.g. Roberts, 1978; Lomnitz, 1977) how far the qualities of enterprise and inventiveness are needed simply to ensure survival in such adverse circumstances. Typically, family and neighbours develop complicated survival strategies, often involving the articulation of many different forms of informal and formal economic activity Thus, relatively little empirical support has been found for the ‘culture of poverty’ argument. Other explanations are therefore required for Third World poverty (see UNDERDEVELOPMENT).

References in periodicals archive ?
The second part of the paper examines the socioeconomic mobility of Puerto Ricans while looking at the applicability of the paradigms known as classic assimilation, underclass or culture of poverty, segmented assimilation, place stratification and stratified ethnoracial incorporation.
The authors largely reviewed the literature surrounding this topic, using the culture of poverty arguments, sociological theory, conflict criminology, and institutional and systemic discrimination to examine these disparities.
Claire added: "We live in a culture of poverty tourism.
Within the physical environment of deprivation, there develops a culture of poverty with its prevalence of disease, social disruption, violence in the home and outside and dependence on drugs and alcohol.
The chapter further analyzes critical race theory and its allegations of institutional racism, biological theories of racial difference and the Bell Curve, culture of poverty explanations of economic deprivation, and the implications for welfare.
Raz argues that cultural deprivation was linked closely with notions of a culture of poverty, but that while some used the term synonymously, she finds that the theory drew more directly from other theories of deprivation that had already gained significant traction and support.
East Wenatchee Rotary will receive mentoring and poverty awareness training to better understand the culture of poverty and will develop mentoring relationships with students at Eastmont Alternative High School.
The authors give her space and allow her a history so that her story is round and complicated--not salaciously sensationalized a la Oscar Lewis's "culture of poverty" renditions (such as in his 1966 book La Vida: A Puerto Rican Family in the Culture of Poverty, San Juan and New York).
Jobs, he says, are the only way to change the culture of poverty.
According to the culture of poverty (Lewis, 1966), the poor are accused as the culprit of poverty.
Lewis may have coined the phrase, "the culture of poverty," but Michael Harrington popularized it in his book, The Other America.