Poverty in America

Poverty in America: A Handbook

John Iceland
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 3
Pages: 226
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt3fh34c
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  • Book Info
    Poverty in America
    Book Description:

    The United States is among the most affluent nations in the world and has its largest economy; nevertheless, it has more poverty than most countries with similar standards of living. Growing income inequality and the Great Recession have made the problem worse. In this thoroughly revised edition of Poverty in America, Iceland takes a new look at this issue by examining why poverty remains pervasive, what it means to be poor in America today, which groups are most likely to be poor, the root causes of poverty, and the effects of policy on poverty. This new edition also includes completely updated data and extended discussions of poverty in the context of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements as well as new chapters on the Great Recession and global poverty. In doing so this book provides the most recent information available on patterns and trends in poverty and engages in an open and accessible manner in current critical debates.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95679-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Poverty will always be with us. This is not a new idea. From the Gospel of John to today many have despaired that poverty is an enduring feature of society, even as they search for ways to alleviate it. But is this true? Will poverty really always be with us?

    The last fifty years, much like the fifty years before it, have been an economic roller coaster. In 1964 President Lyndon Johnson boldly proclaimed the War on Poverty, making it the centerpiece of his domestic agenda. Then, after nearly a decade of true progress against poverty in the United States—...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Early Views of Poverty in America
    (pp. 11-21)

    What is poverty? When I ask this question of my students, a common response is something like, “Being poor means not having a lot of money.” This makes sense, but it is still rather vague. Although we commonly fumble about for a more precise answer, many of us nevertheless feel we can certainly recognize poverty when we see it. The historian James T. Patterson, for example, relates the following report from a social worker during the Great Depression: “Chicago, 1936: One woman wrote to a relief station as follows: ‘I am without food for myself and child. I only got...

  8. CHAPTER 2 Methods of Measuring Poverty
    (pp. 22-38)

    The current official poverty measure, devised in 1965 and adopted by the federal government in 1969, has lived to a ripe old age. Some would assert too ripe an age, especially given changing living standards over the last half century. Unlike in the 1960s, most women today work, and many of these families need child care. Health care costs have surged, and housing takes up a larger share of a family’s budget than it used to. People of all political stripes say the poverty measure is hopelessly outdated, and, as a consequence, new efforts have cropped up to provide a...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Characteristics of the Poverty Population
    (pp. 39-60)

    During a time of persisting unemployment and high poverty after the Great Recession, it was not difficult to find stories about people struggling to get by.

    At a food pantry in a Chicago suburb, a 38-year-old mother of two breaks into tears. She and her husband have been out of work for nearly two years. Their house and car are gone. So is their foothold in the middle class and, at times, their self-esteem. “It’s like there is no way out,” says Kris Fallon. She is trapped like so many others, destitute in the midst of America’s abundance.

    There’s Bill...

  10. CHAPTER 4 Global Poverty
    (pp. 61-78)

    Examining poverty in countries around the world provides greater insight into the nature and extent of poverty in the United States. A look at poverty in developing countries, for example, highlights the difference between extremely deep deprivation in poor countries and relative poverty in rich ones, as well as the role of globalization in shaping patterns of poverty. An investigation of poverty in other rich countries provides insight into how different policy orientations contribute to different economic outcomes. Two distinct patterns emerge from this analysis. First, in absolute terms, poverty in the United States qualitatively differs from that in the...

  11. CHAPTER 5 Causes of Poverty
    (pp. 79-113)

    It is commonly believed that individual failings or wayward values propel people into poverty. In the 1960s, anthropologist Oscar Lewis wrote, “By the time slum children are age six or seven they have usually absorbed the basic values and attitudes of their subculture and are not psychologically geared to take full advantage of changing conditions or increased opportunities which may occur in their lifetime.”¹ When asked about causes of poverty, about half of Americans say that poverty is the fault of individuals, while nearly the same proportion feel that circumstances play the principal role. Affluent people are more likely to...

  12. CHAPTER 6 The Great Recession
    (pp. 114-129)

    The Great Recession of 2007–9 has officially been over for some time. Unfortunately, however, this recession was unlike other recent ones. First, it lasted eighteen months, making it the longest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.¹ Second, the unemployment rate rose more sharply in this recession than in previous ones. In December 2007—at the start of the recession—unemployment stood at 5.0 percent. By October 2009, unemployment had doubled, peaking at 10.0 percent. The change in the unemployment rate from start to peak was thus 5.0 percentage points, whereas the change in the previous four recessions...

  13. CHAPTER 7 Poverty and Policy
    (pp. 130-156)

    The struggle between providing aid to those in need while not promoting socially “undesirable” behaviors is a central one in current debates on poverty. This debate is not a new one. Over a century ago, in 1904, Emil Munsterberg described this dilemma:

    The conduct of society toward poverty continues to oscillate between two evils—the evil of insufficient care for the indigent, with the resulting appearance of an ever-increasing impoverishment … and the evil of a reckless poor-relief, with the resulting appearance of far-reaching abuses, the lessening of the spirit of independence…. The history of poverty is for the most...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 157-164)

    The United States is a strong and prosperous nation. It has the world’s largest economy and its strongest military. Its per capita GDP is one of the highest in the world. Americans have many freedoms, such as freedom of speech and worship. As exasperating as the political system can be, the United States does have a stable democracy. The United States continues to be a global center of economic and technological innovation. The waiting list for permanent visas is long, and America remains an attractive destination for immigrants.

    But we do have a poverty problem. The problem may not be...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 165-178)
  16. References
    (pp. 179-204)
  17. Index
    (pp. 205-214)