The Decent Poverty Stricken: Images of the Near Poor
The status poor--those at the bottom of the ladder--are a threatening group to the citizens of the poorfare state because of the possibilities they embody and imply. Even thinking about the poor must be done cautiously, such that one does not inadvertently devalue one's own achievements and merits or one's image of those accomplishments. What happens, though, when one changes from thinking about the bottom class to the next rung? How do people think about the next-to-the-lowest class?
The members are seen as decent poverty-stricken individuals. If the lowest class can be regarded as the welfare class, the class which has given up, then the next-lowest class is perceived as one which has continued to try and is still interested in achieving success, or has, above all, the motivation, the will, or the nerve to try. Respondents see these class members as continuing to struggle to control the elements of their lives (rather than abandoning themselves to the vicissitudes of the environment). Indeed, several respondents specifically described members of this group as people who did have some control over their own life, or words to that effect. The beliefs about the next- lowest class, like the lowest class, support and enhance major value systems. Rather than threatening values, like the lowest class, the near-poor provide reassurance of the dominant values. While the poor threaten values, near- poor provide reassurance. In a sense, if the poor represent the most subdominant elements of the value system, the near-poor represent the dominant ones.