Poverty In America The Causes Term Paper

Length: 16 pages Sources: 14 Subject: Sociology Type: Term Paper Paper: #22351000 Related Topics: Poverty, Urban Sociology, Industrial Sociology, Central America
Excerpt from Term Paper :

The literature search and selection was essentially based on the central questions noted above. The selection of causality was a central theme in this search; and this term was also related to concomitant aspects of the subject; such as the perception of poverty, methodological consideration in the measurement of poverty rates, important social and cultural factors etc. An effort way also made to include theoretical as well as more practical studies, reports and assessments of the problem. However, the literature search also attempted to provide for alternative views and theories that might shed light on the central thesis of the study; so that the literature reviews and citations in this study would be as discursive and extensive as possible.

4.1. General views and overviews general study that provides some useful background to the issue of poverty in an historical context is a History of Sociology in Britain: Science, Literature, and Society Book by a.H. Halsey (2004). In this comprehensive overview the author provides useful insights into the sociological understanding of the development of poverty with regard to its origins in the industrial revolution in Britain. This study therefore stresses the fact that the roots of contemporary poverty lie in the eventful changes in society and in social structures that emerged as a result of the industrial revolution.

Another general overview of the issue surrounding poverty seen in its sociological context is the comprehensive, Poverty in America: A Handbook by John Iceland (2003). This comprehensive and very useful source book provides a cogent overview of the changes in theoretical stances and perceptions of poverty in the American context. The study notes, for example, the naivety of the original American "dream" of eradicating poverty. The study also provides an in-depth and extensive exploration of the trends and patterns of poverty in the United States; as well as an examination of the impact and effect of poverty over time.

Importantly, the study is of the view that the persistence of poverty in the United States is a reflection of much more than just accumulation of the fallings of individuals. The study stresses that various structural issues including the way that poverty is interpreted and understood, determine responses and policy in relation to poverty. (Iceland, 2003, p. 2) This also includes an exposition of the part that the economic system plays and factors such as other social inequality. (Iceland, 2003, p. 2) This important point will be expanded on in this thesis.

This work also refers to various other aspects that are influential in understanding patterns and causation on poverty in America. For instance, Iceland notes that shifts in family structure have not been considered an important causative factor for poverty and in poverty rates in recent research; however, they were considered to be important in demeaning poverty trends in the 1970s and 1980s" (Iceland, 2003, p. 2).

These aspects and theoretical shifts are also contrasted with older and more established views about the causes of poverty in the country and the author brings to bear more contemporary views and issues that relate to this topic. Importantly, Iceland also discuses the myths that abound about poverty and how this term is often subject to forms of stereotyping and is erroneously associated with ethic groups and various cultural areas. The author states, for example, the common misperception is most of the poor in the country are African-American residents of inner cities. (Iceland, 2003, p. 3) Another stereotypical misconception that is noted is the view that the poor do not work. These issues are important in a consideration of the real causes of poverty, which need to be distinguished for the mythical, stereotypical and biased views of this phenomenon.

One of the central questions that underlie the issue of the cause of poverty in America is the actual extent of this phenomenon in a wealthy and developed country. Garth L. Mangum, Stephen L. Mangum and Andrew M. Sum address this issue in the Persistence of Poverty in the United States (2003). The study provides some useful insights into the actual situation relating to poverty in America - in contradistinction to the media image and the stereotypical resonation of poverty. As a review of the book by Midgley, (2004), states, while there is seemingly a plethora of statistical data that supports the view that Americans enjoy a very high standard of living, research also reveals...


This is coupled with the fact of the persistence of poverty in the population as well as marked signs of the growth of this problem in the middle class of the country. (Midgley, 2004. p. 215).

A very useful introduction to the problem of poverty in the country is the extensive data contained in the Catholic Charities 2006 Policy Paper, Poverty in America: A Threat to the Common Good. This paper provides some extremely useful data and statistics. For example, it states that 37 million people - about 12.6% of the population - live below the official federal poverty level; and between 2000 and 2004, the number of people living in poverty increased by 5.3 million. (Poverty in America: A Threat to the Common Good) Even more telling is the fact that poverty rates did not decline, even though the economy as a whole was in the process of recovery. (Poverty in America: A Threat to the Common Good) These important statistics underlines the importance of a study of this nature.

4.2. Alternative views and theories work that explores the concept of poverty from another angle and is also very useful in terms of the central thesis of this study is, Poverty and the Third Way, by Colin C. Williams (2003). This study refers to the view of the "old left' which sees the poor as a construct of society and is in favor of the redistribution of wealth as an answer to the problem. The views of the New Right are also expanded on in this study. This relates to the stance which sees the poor as an underclass with low morals, work ethic etc. These two views roughly correspond to the two different ideological trajectories in theory that have been referred to above.

The third perspective is the view of "new labor' which refers to the identification and understanding of the poor as simply the 'unemployed" and to employment of the poor as the way out of poverty. Williams suggest another alternative view of poverty that focuses on "capabilities theory." (Williams & Windebank, 2003, p. 1) study which is central to the main thesis under discussion, especially in terms of the sociological context of poverty is American Poverty as a Structural Failing: Evidence and Arguments, by Mark R. Rank, Hong-Sik Yoon and Thomas a. Hirschl (2003). This study notes that in the main, most of the empirical research on poverty in America has been focused on individual characteristics to explain the prevalent patterns of poverty. The authors of this study state that this emphasis is "misplaced" and that as a result of concentrating on individual attributes and failings as the cause of poverty, sociologists and other experts have been blind to the real causes and the "underlying dynamic" of American impoverishment." (Rank, Yoon & Hirschl, 2003) This "underlying dynamic: in their view refers to the fact that the economic systems and constraints in fact create poverty. This view would therefore be in concert with theories that see the system itself as a cause of poverty. (Rank, Yoon & Hirschl, 2003).

The above study goes on to show that the causes of poverty are the result of structural failings in the system itself at many levels, including the economic, political, and social levels. This perspective also takes note of the older research findings that have tended to focus on individual characteristics as important factors in the reality of poverty; while at the same time addressing the structural nature of American poverty (Rank, Yoon & Hirschl, 2003). Importantly the study by Rank, Yoon and Hirschl raises an issue that is central to the main thesis of this study. This refers to the fact, or rather the question of why the United States has such high levels of poverty in comparison to other Western Countries. (Rank, Yoon & Hirschl, 2003. p. 3) This refers to the fact, according to the authors, that America has too many low-wage jobs and that the governmental polices in terms of social poverty have been too restrictive and have not done enough in terms of supporting families. The authors also refer to the importance of increasing labor market opportunities and social support to ordinary Americans. (Rank, Yoon & Hirschl, 2003. p. 3)

An intriguing and enlightening study of the actual measurement poverty in the United States is the Sequential Costs of Poverty: What Traditional Measures Overlook (2006) by Elizabeth a. Segal, Laura R. Peck. The research in this study suggests an addition to the poverty measurement debate. In essence, the…

Sources Used in Documents:


Bradshaw T.K. (2006) Theories of Poverty and Anti-Poverty Programs in Community Development. Retrieved 16 October, 2007, at

Caughy, M.O., & O'Campo, P.J. (2006). Neighborhood Poverty, Social Capital and the Cognitive Development of African-American Preschoolers. American Journal of Community Psychology, 37(1-2), 141+. Retrieved October 18, 2007, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5019576435

Curley, a.M. (2005). Theories of Urban Poverty and Implications for Public Housing Policy. Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 32(2), 97+. Retrieved October 18, 2007, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5011100062

Curran, L. (2003). The Culture of Race, Class, and Poverty: The Emergence of a Cultural Discourse in Early Cold War Social Work. Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 30(3), 15+. Retrieved October 18, 2007, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5002559421

Cite this Document:

"Poverty In America The Causes" (2007, October 21) Retrieved June 25, 2021, from

"Poverty In America The Causes" 21 October 2007. Web.25 June. 2021. <

"Poverty In America The Causes", 21 October 2007, Accessed.25 June. 2021,

Related Documents
Poverty and Its Effects on Society
Words: 1820 Length: 6 Pages Topic: Sociology - Welfare Paper #: 17294281

Qualitative and Quantitative Evidence of Social Problem of Poverty In delineation, poverty is the state of affairs in which an individual either owing to insufficient income or ill-advised expenditures, does not sustain a standard of living sufficiently enough to make provisions for his or her physical and psychological efficacy and to facilitate them and their natural children to function, more often than not to the standards of society (Sharma, 1997). In

What Is the Primary Cause of Homelessness in America
Words: 2223 Length: 7 Pages Topic: Family and Marriage Paper #: 86416038

Cause of Homelessness in America has numerous social problems. Homelessness seems to be one of the most important ones. There are several causes that determine homelessness. However, the primary cause of homelessness can be considered the reduced affordable housing level and the national increase in poverty. Other causes of homelessness refer to high unemployment rates, low salary levels in certain urban and rural areas, the inability of certain individuals to pay

Poverty in Haiti -- Case Study Causes
Words: 1001 Length: 3 Pages Topic: Literature - Latin-American Paper #: 77674658

Poverty in Haiti -- Case Study CAUSES AND SOLUTIONS Poverty in Haiti Key Problem: Haiti remains among the poorest in the world despite strong interventions. a broad-spectrum approach under a proper leadership will address Haiti's multiple problems synergistically. Haiti overcame French colonial control and slavery in a series of wars in the early 19th century to become the world's first black-led Republic and the first independent Caribbean State (BBC, 2012). Its largely mountainous terrain and

Poverty Over the Years, the
Words: 1103 Length: 4 Pages Topic: Sports - Drugs Paper #: 68027544

This can take shape with the person having fewer educational resources and support. While at the same time, they are exposed to a host of illegal activities that are committed right in front of them (i.e. The distribution of illegal drugs or the sale of guns). These factors will help the person to think that this is socially acceptable. ("Causes and Effects of Poverty," 2012) When this happens, they will

Poverty and Obesity Povery and Obesity the
Words: 2424 Length: 7 Pages Topic: Agriculture Paper #: 13104742

Poverty and Obesity POVERY AND OBESITY The Connection Between Poverty and Obesity Michelle Spezio English Composition Fall Session A The Connection between Poverty and Obesity The argument that obesity is correlated with poverty is one that is quite persistent in the popular literature and also the in the scientific research (e.g., Drewnowski, 2004; Pollan, 2006). To say that one thing is correlated with another should not be interpreted as meaning that one thing leads to another or

Poverty Education Problems at Present, an African
Words: 2163 Length: 7 Pages Topic: Teaching Paper #: 43546594

Poverty Education Problems At present, an African child born in poverty is more anticipated to be undernourished than attending primary school education and is as likely to pass away ahead of age 5 as to attend secondary education. As mentioned by Tilak, J. (2009) these harsh realities are representatative of the interlinked state of poverty and education with regard to a child's chances of survival in Africa. Statistical assessment of sub-Saharan