What's Wrong with the Poor?

What's Wrong with the Poor?: Psychiatry, Race, and the War on Poverty

Mical Raz
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    What's Wrong with the Poor?
    Book Description:

    In the 1960s, policymakers and mental health experts joined forces to participate in President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty. In her insightful interdisciplinary history, physician and historian Mical Raz examines the interplay between psychiatric theory and social policy throughout that decade, ending with President Richard Nixon's 1971 veto of a bill that would have provided universal day care. She shows that this cooperation between mental health professionals and policymakers was based on an understanding of what poor men, women, and children lacked. This perception was rooted in psychiatric theories of deprivation focused on two overlapping sections of American society: the poor had less, and African Americans, disproportionately represented among America's poor, were seen as having practically nothing.Raz analyzes the political and cultural context that led child mental health experts, educators, and policymakers to embrace this deprivation-based theory and its translation into liberal social policy. Deprivation theory, she shows, continues to haunt social policy today, profoundly shaping how both health professionals and educators view children from low-income and culturally and linguistically diverse homes.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-1266-9
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    (pp. 1-9)

    AT A WHITE HOUSE AFTERNOON TEA in February 1965, Lady Bird Johnson announced the establishment of Project Head Start, an early childhood educational program that would serve children—many of them African American—from low-income homes. Designed and administered by the Office of Economic Opportunity, this new program drew much media attention. Moved by the educational opportunities these children would be afforded but distressed at their meager backgrounds, the First Lady described how some of these children had never seen a flower, had never sat in a chair; some did not even know their own names.¹ Today, these clearly erroneous...

  5. CHAPTER ONE A Mother’s Touch? From Deprivation to Day Care
    (pp. 10-36)

    IN 1950, EMINENT BRITISH PSYCHOANALYST John Bowlby was appointed as a short-term consultant to the World Health Organization on the subject of homeless children in post–World War II Europe. This position proved to be a turning point in his career. Bowlby, who had previously conducted research on the impact of children’s separation from their mothers or mother-substitutes early in life, had a long-standing interest in what he later came to call deprivation.¹ Drawing from the available research on children in institutions as well as his own findings, he prepared his report, Maternal Care andMental Health, published in 1951....

  6. CHAPTER TWO Cultural Deprivation? Race, Deprivation, and the Nature-Nurture Debate
    (pp. 37-75)

    DURING THE 1960s, cultural deprivation was the conceptual axis by which poverty and its long-term detrimental effects were viewed. The theory of cultural deprivation considered poverty not simply an economic condition but rather a distinct sociocultural pathology that caused academic and even intellectual disadvantage and social disability. Even worse, it created an additional generation of culturally deprived individuals, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty.¹ Throughout the decade, the concept of cultural deprivation shaped how scientists, clinicians, and government officials perceived the abilities, needs, and home environments of children from families of differing socioeconomic statuses.

    Cultural deprivation was closely tied to...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Targeting Deprivation Early Enrichment and Community Action
    (pp. 76-111)

    IN 1967, journalist Fred Powledge published a short book describing the early intervention program run by psychologist Martin Deutsch at New York City’s Institute for Developmental Studies (IDS). This preschool program, which had opened its doors in 1962 to African American children in Harlem, later served as a model for Project Head Start. Funded by the Anti-Defamation League, Powledge’s book offered a glowing description of the program down to the smallest details. A colorful ring-stacking toy, made of movable rings of wood of decreasing diameter on an upright base, was repainted a solid yellow, Powledge explained, as part of an...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Deprivation and Intellectual Disability From “Mild Mental Retardation” to Resegregation
    (pp. 112-141)

    IN THE LATE 1950S AND 1960S, child mental health experts created a new category of disability: “mild mental retardation” caused by deprivation.¹ Profoundly influencing public policy, this diagnosis was as a highly political category and had far-reaching practical implications.² The diagnosis of “mild mental retardation” was often the first step in placing children in separate tracks or special education classes in their schools. Since the late 1960s, the category of mild intellectual disability has been the subject of much controversy, as it has been disproportionately used to diagnose racial and ethnic minorities as well as children from low-income homes. This...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Environmental Psychology and the Race Riots
    (pp. 142-168)

    ON A SPRING NIGHT IN 1964, as Catherine Genovese was returning to her New York apartment from her work as a night manager at a bar, she was raped and murdered. Initial reports (later found to be unsubstantiated) indicated that as many as thirty-eight of her neighbors witnessed the attack or heard her screams, and none had called the police or offered their help.¹ The crime itself was gruesome, but what mainly aroused public debate at the time was the fact that it had taken place in the victim’s home neighborhood and that none of her neighbors had come to...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 169-176)

    DURING THE 2012 REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARIES, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich argued that children from low-income families lacked role models to teach them the importance of a good work ethic; they thus failed to understand the concept of “showing up on Monday and staying all day.” They should be employed, he suggested, in jobs such as “assistant janitor” at their schools to help them learn the value of work as well as earn wages.¹ With this controversial statement, Gingrich illustrated the extent to which images of deprivation in the home lives of low-income children remain a part of...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 177-222)
  12. Index
    (pp. 223-242)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 243-243)