Improving Poor People: The Welfare State, the "Underclass," and Urban Schools as History


To understand contemporary poverty in the United States, Michael Katz looks particularly at an old attitude: because many nineteenth-century reformers traced extreme poverty to certain forms of bad behavior, they tried to use public policy and philanthropy to improve the character of poor people, rather than to attack the structural causes of their misery. Showing how this misdiagnosis has afflicted today's welfare and educational systems, Katz, a major historian of urban poverty, draws on his own experiences to introduce each of four topics the welfare state, the underclass debate, urban school reform, and the strategies of survival used by the urban poor. As a concise overview of twenty-five years of writing on poverty, welfare, and public education, this is an exceptionally valuable and important book.... It will be read widely by social scientists, policy makers, and concerned citizens. Molly Ladd-Taylor, The Journal of American History A must reading for all social workers ... interested in the current debate about the role of government in social welfare. Katz's keen historical analysis informs us what our response to need has been and poses questions that we need to ask to avoid future errors. Edward J. Gumz, Families in Society

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