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The Underclass: Culture and Race. Why are some people persistently poor?. Possible answers examined (debunked) in Chapter 8 Because they are mired in a culture of poverty Because they are members of an inferior race

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The Underclass: Culture and Race

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why are some people persistently poor
Why are some people persistently poor?
  • Possible answers examined (debunked) in Chapter 8
    • Because they are mired in a culture of poverty
    • Because they are members of an inferior race
  • Be sure to distinguish between the cycle of poverty and the culture of poverty.
the culture of poverty
The Culture of Poverty
  • The poor lack sufficient desire and motivation to escape poverty
  • They don’t behave in ways that would help them escape poverty. i.e. they prolong their impoverishment
    • They are self-indulgent and unable to defer gratification
  • Blames the victim
  • A breed apart
  • Calls for the poor to help themselves; change must be internal
validating the culture of poverty
Validating the Culture of Poverty
  • Schiller gives two standards that must be satisfied to validate the culture of poverty:
    • “It must be shown that the norms and aspirations--not just the behavior--of the poor are different and that these differences impede escape from poverty.”
    • “It must also be shown whether and to what degree such differences would disappear under changing socio-economic circumstances.”
    • Source: Schiller, p. 142
validating the culture of poverty cont
Validating the Culture of Poverty, cont.
  • Why isn’t it sufficient to document differences in behavior? Why must we verify differences in norms and aspirations?
  • What methods can we employ to verify that the persistently poor have different norms and aspirations?
validating the culture of poverty cont1
Validating the Culture of Poverty, cont.
  • What kind of data could we collect to test the hypothesis that the persistently poor would not join the mainstream if their socio-economic circumstances changed?
a test of deferred gratification
A test of deferred gratification
  • We saw in the last lecture that birth rates for women with family incomes less than $10,000 (95.8) are almost twice that for women in families with incomes of $75,000 and more (54.8). Is this evidence that the poor seek more immediate gratification than the nonpoor?
schiller s 4 way test
Schiller’s 4-way test
  • We can conclude that values (and not circumstances) differ if:
    • The satisfaction being deferred is equally important to the poor and nonpoor;
    • There is equal opportunity to defer the satisfaction;
    • The poor and nonpoor suffer equally from deferment; and
    • The probability of obtaining gratification at the end of the deferment period is equal for both groups;

If any of these conditions is violated, observable differences in behavioral outcomes must be due to differences in situations.

evolution of the term underclass
Evolution of the term “Underclass”
  • Gunnar Myrdal (1962)
    • Unemployed, unemployable, and underemployed persons and families at the bottom of society
  • Herbert Gans (1965)--connected the underclass to public housing
  • Andrew Brimmer (1971)--linked the underclass to welfare dependency
  • Ken Auletta (1982) The Underclass
    • Synonymous with black residents of urban slums
    • Implied poverty was a permanent condition
    • Connoted an end to black progress
public response controversy peaks in mid 1980s
Public Response (Controversy Peaks in mid-1980s)
  • Social Scientists argued over application of the term
    • impossible to identify members of the underclass
  • Black Politicians and the leaders of civil rights organizations rejected the idea
    • stigmatizing
    • blames the victim (the ghetto poor were responsible for their own condition)
    • suggests self-help remedies
who is to blame
Who is to Blame?
  • William Julius Wilson develops theory of the underclass: increasing isolation from the mainstream
    • Avoids blaming the victim
    • Defies the culture of poverty theory
  • Charles Murray-Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society (Schiller’s Big Brother)
  • Christopher Jencks-economic and cultural trends that swept through all of American society, “when white America gets a cold, black America gets pneumonia.” (Lemann, p. 286)
wilson s underclass theory why the ghettos fell apart
Wilson’s Underclass Theory(why the ghettos fell apart)
  • Persistent urban poverty is the result of the combined, interacting effects of joblessness, deteriorating neighborhoods, and the oppositional culture these forces generate:
    • Work disappears
    • Stable, working-class families move out
      • Employment networks disintegrate
      • Role models disappear
      • Number of two-parent families declines
      • Community institutions dependent of resources provided by middle-class families decline or disappear
wilson s underclass theory cont
Wilson’s Underclass Theory, cont.
  • poor youth become socially isolated from mainstream social networks that facilitate social and economic advancement, and become more vulnerable to:
    • Gangs
    • Drugs
    • Dropping out of school
    • Teen pregnancies
  • These behaviors
    • impede their economic and social mobility
    • Will disappear in the face of opportunity
policy implications
Policy Implications
  • What types of policies are dictated by the Culture of Poverty Theory?
  • By Wilson’s Underclass Theory?
  • Do the two sets of policies overlap? Explain.
experiences from american dream
Experiences from American Dream
  • Did you find any evidence regarding direct tests of aspirations in the chapters about the lives of Angie, Jewell, and Opal that support or refute the culture of poverty theory? Explain.
  • Can you cite passages that suggest that any of the women were content with their lives? Which ones?
experiences from american dream cont
Experiences from American Dream, cont.
  • Did you find any evidence in the chapters about the lives of Angie, Jewell, and Opal that supports Wilson’s theory that the poor respond positively to expanded economic opportunities? Explain.
controversy continues
Controversy continues
  • William Julius Wilson argues against race-specific policies to address the problems of the underclass (The Declining Significance of Race, 1978)
    • Civil rights legislation had eliminated racial discrimination
    • Democratic party could be mobilized by color-blind policies
  • Current version of debate: Orlando Patterson vs. Glenn Loury
the racial inferiority theory
The Racial Inferiority Theory
  • Any questions about pp. 148-154?
  • We will assume that Schiller is correct when he concludes that racial theories of black poverty based on the theory of racial inferiority have been discredited.
the racial inferiority theory cont
The Racial Inferiority Theory, Cont.
  • Even so, we have to contend with the views of the American public:
    • White Americans favor a racial explanation for the overrepresentation of blacks among the poor 3 to 1.
    • 1 in 2 whites believe blacks have less ambition than whites
    • Fewer that 1 in 6 whites believe racial discrimination is a serious problem
the racial inferiority theory cont1
The Racial Inferiority Theory, Cont.
  • Clinton said, “I really believe that if we passed welfare reform . . . we could diminish at least a lot of the overt racial stereotypes that I thought were paralyzing American politics? (152).
  • In your view, has this happened? Explain. Has debate over welfare reform been cleansed of racism?