Sociology of Poverty in the United States: An Annotated Bibliography

Sociology of Poverty in the United States: An Annotated Bibliography

Sociology of Poverty in the United States: An Annotated Bibliography

Sociology of Poverty in the United States: An Annotated Bibliography

Excerpt

A half-world of more than 35 million persons, 15.2 percent of the population, exists in the United States today; it is a half-world composed of the poor. They are young, and they are old; they can be found in the cities and in the backwaters of the country; many are women trying to hold together their young families. This half-world consists not simply of the unemployed and idlers but also of the "working poor," laboring at jobs that do not pay enough to provide a decent standard of living.

The existence of this half-world of poverty stands in contrast to our ideal vision of this society. We are generally smug about how "well off" we are. Yet hidden behind the glitter and glamour of much of our nation lies a segment of the population that is becoming more and more separated from our common culture by its inability to consistently make a living wage.

Certainly even the poorest members of our society have more than most of the poor of the third world. But, for the purpose of the study of poverty in the United States, that is not relevant. Poverty must be defined in terms of the standards of a decent life in the society in which the individual lives. Subjectively, poverty can best be described as a situation in which a person or family is not able to maintain an adequate level of living by the standards of their society. Objectively, the federal government estimates that an urban family of four, in 1983, needed an income of at least $10,178 in order to maintain that standard of living.

Poverty, of course, has always been a part of human societies. It is only in more recent days that it has come to be viewed as a problem that demands the attention of the society as a whole. Originally, help for the poor in our society was regarded as a matter of personal charity. But as the society has become industrialized and urbanized the number of poor, especially those concentrated in the cities, has made it difficult to assist them on a person-to-person basis. Even so it was not until the Great Depression that attitudes toward welfare programs changed. It took the . . .

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