Sociology Question

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SYG 2000 Introduction to Sociology

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Hi! I need help writing an essay using the course material. I need this Essay by 3:30 today PST

Based on your course materials, write your best essay addressing the questions.

Referencing course material will earn you more points in this quiz!

Based on this week's materials, how does having a Sociological Imagination help us understand poverty?

Give a current example of how seeing the big picture helps us better understand the struggles that people experience.

Sociological Explanations for Poverty

I. Here's a paper outlining some of the ways that sociologists look at the topic of poverty. Think about the Sociological Imagination and looking at biography and history as a way to understand peoples' current situation.

Then think about how Mills talked about perspective-taking and seeing the big picture! Often, our personal troubles are actually public issues in disguise, caused by forces larger than ourselves. Many of you keenly identified the COVID-19 global pandemic as a public issue, something that started out as a personal trouble because people thought it was "their problem, not mine..." This 'personal trouble' evolved into a public issue, something that has similarly happened with sickness and disease in many other historical cases.You can find the paper here: Download sociology of poverty-1.pdf.

2. The following table will show you the federal guidelines for poverty. This means, that in order for someone to be considered 'poor' by the government, according to their household size, they must make less income annually - shown in the chart - to be considered 'poor.'

Being counted matters, because if I am a single person and make $1 more than $12,760 at the end of 2020, then I am not considered poor, which translates to: I don't qualify for potential benefits. I make too much money.

Take a look here: https://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty-guidelinesLinks to an external site.

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econstor A Service of zbw Make Your Publications Visible. Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft Leibniz Information Centre for Economics Smeeding, Timothy M. Working Paper Sociology of Poverty LIS Working Paper Series, No. 315 Provided in Cooperation with: Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) Suggested Citation: Smeeding, Timothy M. (2002) : Sociology of Poverty, LIS Working Paper Series, No. 315, Luxembourg Income Study (LIS), Luxembourg This Version is available at: http://hdl.handle.net/10419/160987 Standard-Nutzungsbedingungen: Terms of use: Die Dokumente auf EconStor dürfen zu eigenen wissenschaftlichen Zwecken und zum Privatgebrauch gespeichert und kopiert werden. Documents in EconStor may be saved and copied for your personal and scholarly purposes. Sie dürfen die Dokumente nicht für öffentliche oder kommerzielle Zwecke vervielfältigen, öffentlich ausstellen, öffentlich zugänglich machen, vertreiben oder anderweitig nutzen. You are not to copy documents for public or commercial purposes, to exhibit the documents publicly, to make them publicly available on the internet, or to distribute or otherwise use the documents in public. Sofern die Verfasser die Dokumente unter Open-Content-Lizenzen (insbesondere CC-Lizenzen) zur Verfügung gestellt haben sollten, gelten abweichend von diesen Nutzungsbedingungen die in der dort genannten Lizenz gewährten Nutzungsrechte. www.econstor.eu If the documents have been made available under an Open Content Licence (especially Creative Commons Licences), you may exercise further usage rights as specified in the indicated licence. Luxembourg Income Study Working Paper Series Working Paper No. 315 Sociology of Poverty Timothy Smeeding December 2002 Luxembourg Income Study (LIS), asbl FINAL Sociology of Poverty Timothy M. Smeeding, Director Center for Policy Research, and Maxwell Professor of Public Policy The Maxwell School Syracuse University 426 Eggers Hall Syracuse, NY 13244-1020 tel: (315) 443-9042 fax: (315) 443-1081 tmsmeed@maxwell.syr.edu December 2000 Abstract Sociologists and other social scientists in rich countries have long been concerned with economic and social deprivation. This entry addresses both the nature and causes of poverty from a sociological perspective and the way that sociologists and social scientists have measured poverty in national and cross-national contexts. Sociologists tend to focus on external (to the individual) explanations of poverty, such as those based on place, class, gender, economic power, and related contextual variables. Thus, poverty is almost always relative to place and context. Poverty measurement, social indicators and other measures of deprivation are also discussed in some detail and the most recent relevant literature is cited. Introduction Sociologists have long written about the topic of poverty, as have economists and other social scientists. Indeed, this International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Science (IESBS) entry is complemented by several others with similar themes. Readers may therefore want to also consult other entries as well (e.g., measurement of poverty; poverty and gender in industrialized nations). We begin with a basic description of the nature and causes of poverty as seen by sociologists, and second with the techniques used to measure poverty by sociologists and other social scientists in both national and crossnational contexts. Our study also focuses on cross-national comparisons with rich countries; those interested in poverty in developing nations should consult the IESBS entry on this topic. Sociology and Poverty Because the fundamental concept of poverty concerns itself with having too little resources or capabilities to participate fully in a society, the study of poverty has found a wide following in sociology. Sociologists have been more interested in the explanation of poverty than in its measurement, though almost all sociologists believe that poverty statistics are meaningful social indicators of basic needs (Piachaud 1987; Townsend 1973; Ringen 1985). Sociological interests in poverty center around the ideas of the “culture” of poverty and the effects of “place” on poverty. The urban—central city— ghetto aspects of this issue are well treated in the work of Wilson (1987), Massey and Denton (1993), and Massey (1996), Harrington’s classic work, The Other America, covers rural deprivation as well (Harrington 1981). Roles of culture, power, social structure, and other factors largely out of control of the individual are the main forces which sociologists use to explain poverty. The basic working hypothesis is that individuals are strongly influenced by the physical and cultural context on which they live. “Neighborhood” exerts a strong influence on behavior and concentrated poverty in central city ghettos therefore has a strong negative effect on future life chances and longrun deprivation. Indeed, in the United States, this has spawned interest in the so-called “underclass” which goes beyond poverty, alone to include all persons with dysfunctional behaviors living in “bad” neighborhoods (Mincy, Sandhill, and Wolf 1990). The European terms for a similarly disaffected population is “social exclusion” which is also beyond poverty measurement per se (Room 1999; Hills 1999; Glennester et al. 1999) Gender and household structure also frequently play a role in sociological theories of poverty (e.g., Miller 1996; Ringen 1985). As women’s roles in society often leave them with caregiving responsibilities, with low paying careers and jobs, and therefore in poor economic circumstances, poverty is often high among single female parents and elderly widows. Thus, we find a preponderance of women in poverty in most rich nations (Casper, McLanahan, and Garfinkel 1994; McLanahan, Swenson, and Watson 1989; Christopher et al. 2001). 2 In general, sociologists are critical of the economist’s perspective of free choice models whereby individuals control their own destiny and are therefore the cause of their own poverty (Piachard 1987). Some sociologists even feel that poverty has a functional role to play in capitalist society (e.g., Gans 1973). Ultimately, however, sociologists, like all other social scientists, need to first establish the breadth and depth of this social phenomenon called “poverty” before they can meaningfully analyze it and explore its ultimate causes and remedies. Thus, we turn to measures and comparisons of poverty employed by sociologists and other social scientists within and across nations. Poverty in Rich Nations: Concepts and Measures We begin by noting that poverty measurement began as an Anglo-American social indicator. In fact, “official” measures of poverty (or measures of “low income”) exist in very few nations. Only the United States (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1999) and the United Kingdom (Department of Social Security 1993) have “official” poverty series. Statistics Canada publishes the number of households with incomes below a “low income cutoff” on an irregular basis, as does the Australia government. In Northern Europe and Scandinavia the debate centers instead on the level of income at which minimum benefits for social programs should be set. In other words, their concept of insufficient “low income” is directly fed into programmatic responses to social needs (Björklund and Freeman 1997). While poverty measurement is an exercise that is particularly popular in the English-speaking countries, most rich nations share the Anglo-Saxon concern over 3 distributional outcomes and the well-being of the low-income population. There is no international consensus on guidelines for measuring poverty, but international bodies such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF 2000), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP 1999), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD 2000), and the European Statistical Office (Eurostat 1998), have published several cross-national studies of the incidence of poverty in rich countries in recent years. The large majority of these studies are based on the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) database which can be accessed remotely via internet at www.lis.ceps.lu. Some examples of these studies include Foster (1993), Jäntti and Danziger (2000), Smeeding, Rainwater, and Burtless (2000), Kenworthy (1998), and Smeeding, O’Higgins, and Rainwater (1990), many of which are directly available on line from the LIS web page. The measurement of poverty in rich nations involves the comparison of some index of household well-being with household needs. When command over economic resources falls short of needs, a household (or person or family) is classified as poor. Well-being refers to the material resources available to a household. The concern with these resources among most social scientists, including sociologists, is not with material consumption per se, but rather with the capabilities such resources give to household members so they can participate fully in society (Sen 1983, 1992). These capabilities are inputs to social activities, and participation in social activities gives rise to a particular level of well-being (Rainwater 1990; Coleman and Rainwater 1978). Methods for measuring a person’s or household’s capabilities differ according to the context in which 4 one assesses them, either over time or across nations or among subpopulations within a nation. Most sociologists recognize that all advanced societies are highly stratified (e.g., Townsend 1979). Hence, some individuals have more resources than others. The opportunities for social participation are affected by the resources that a household disposes, particularly in nations like the United States where there is heavy reliance on the market to provide such essential services as health care, post-secondary education, and child care. Money income is therefore a crucial resource. Of course, there are other important kinds of resources, such as social capital, noncash benefits, primary education, and access to basic health care, all of which add to human capabilities (Coleman 1988). These resources may be available more or less equally to all people in some societies, regardless of their money incomes. Sociologists believe that there are many forces in rich societies which reduce well-being by limiting capabilities for full participation in society, including inadequacies in neighborhoods where people live. Sociologists are therefore interested in racial discrimination, neighborhood violence, low quality public schools, lack of good jobs, and job instability, all of which increase economic insecurity, reduce human capabilities, and increase poverty (for example Massey 1996). Absolute vs. Relative Poverty An absolute poverty standard is defined in terms of a level of purchasing power that is sufficient to buy a fixed bundle of basic necessities. A relative standard, on the other hand, is defined relative to the typical income or consumption level in the wider 5 society. The purchasing power of a relative poverty standard will change over time as society-wide income or consumption levels change, an absolute poverty standard will change only with the prices of commodities. Most sociologists inherently favor the relative definition of poverty. And in fact, all measures of poverty or economic need are relative, because context is important to the definition of needs. The World Bank uses poverty measures of $1 to $2 per person per day—or $1,095 to $2,190 per year for a family of three—for the developing nations of Africa or Latin America (Ravallion 1994). In contrast, the 1998 United States “absolute” poverty threshold was $13,003 for a family of three— about 6 to 12 times the World Bank’s poverty line, while one-half of median income, the preferred relative poverty standard, was another 25 percent above this poverty line or 8 to 15 times the poverty standard in poor countries. Moreover, as economic inequality has increased in most rich societies over the past 20 years, the study of relative deprivation and poverty has taken on a new life (Gottschalk and Smeeding 2000). The link between marginalization, relative poverty, and the globalization of trade is just beginning to emerge as a topic of prime interest among sociologists (e.g., Alber and Standing 2000). In fact, cross-national comparisons of poverty in rich countries rely almost exclusively on a relative concept of poverty. Cross-national studies typically compare the percentage of persons living with income below some fraction, normally half, of the national median income. This kind of comparison is consistent with a well-established theoretical perspective on poverty (Sen 1983, 1992; Townsend 1979). However, some feel that such a standard is too low. For instance, the European Statistical Office 6 Working Group on Poverty Measurement recently recommended using 60 percent of the national median income as a common poverty threshold for European Community poverty studies in the new millennium (Eurostat 2000). Alternative Measures of Resource Poverty Because there is no single commonly accepted way to measure poverty among sociologists, there is a desire to go beyond the popularly used income poverty definition. And so there exists a wide variety of additional poverty measures which substitute for or complement the preponderance of income-based measures used by quantitative sociologists and economists (e.g., see Haveman and Mullikin 1999; Ruggles 1990; Boltvinik 2000). In principle, poverty is a multidimensional concept and should reflect several aspects of personal well-being. Forms of deprivation other than economic hardship can certainly be relevant to poverty measurement and to anti-poverty policymaking. Even restricting consideration to “economic” poverty, measures other than annual income might be used to estimate household resources. For households with fluctuating incomes, annual income can provide a poor approximation for permanent or long-run average income. Some social scientists suggest that annual consumption represents a better proxy for permanent income and hence should be preferred over annual income for measuring household resources (Haveman and Mullikin 1999). However, broad-based consumption data is more difficult to come by than is income data. A number of authors have suggested that separate measures of needs ought to be developed for different goods and services (Aaron 1995). Housing and health care are often mentioned in this context, 7 though the latter is particularly of interest in medically unequal nations such as the United States, while the former is of much greater interest in the United Kingdom (Department of Social Security 1993). Social Indicators Social indicators present an entirely different method of poverty measurement. Researchers have a long tradition of using social indicators to measure both economic hardship and affluence. Analysts often define direct measures of deprivation, such as lack of food, heat, or access to health care (Baumann 1998; Mayer and Jencks 1993). Because each household’s need is imperfectly measured by an income or consumption threshold, many households with incomes above the thresholds may still experience hardships such as hunger or face high rent payments or heavy medical expenses that prevent its members from buying enough food or fuel. Further, individual members of a household may suffer hardship because of unequal sharing of incomes within the household. In these cases, direct measures of material hardship might offer a useful indication of poverty, especially in a cross-national context, and many sociologists are therefore attracted to such measures (Mayer and Jencks 1993). Time Poor Finally, resources other than access to material goods might be important determinants of poverty. The literature in the “time poor” has grown in recent years after a nascent period. The argument is that time is often the scarcest commodity in market work-oriented societies. Further, time spent on home production is often undervalued or not valued at all. The gender bias in time use is therefore at the heart of these types of 8 analyses (Vickrey 1977; Douthitt 1994). In particular, recent research has focused on the time crunch on single parents who must both earn a living in the labor market and care for their children (England and Folbre 1999; Folbre 1994). Summary Sociologists and other social scientists have used a variety of methods to define and measure poverty. Each approach has its strengths, weaknesses. Over the past few decades, income-based poverty measures using annual assessments of household income have provided the main statistics for tracking poverty over time, across nations, and across sub-populations within nations for sociologists and for other social scientists. They have also provided important tools for testing causal hypotheses concerning the explanations, causes, and cures for poverty, including place, space, race, gender, and other popular theories of poverty in sociology. They are complemented by social indicator-based measures of inadequacy, and by the adequacy of time for market work, home work and the nurturing and care of family members. Sociological studies of poverty have both a rich heritage and have become an important area of research in increasingly unequal rich societies. 9 References Aaron H 1985 Comments on methods of measuring noncash benefits. Reported in Noncash Benefits: An Evaluation of the Census Bureau’s Measurement Confernece, PEMD-86-8BR. U.S. General Accounting Office, Washington, DC, April. Alber J and Standing G 2000 Social dumping, catching up or convergence? Europe in a comparative global context, J. of European Soc. Policy 10(2): 99-119. Björklund A and Freeman R 1997 Generating equality and eliminating poverty—the Swedish way. In Freeman R B, Topel R, and Swedenborg B (eds.), The Welfare State in Transition: Reforming the Swedish Model. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Boltvinik J 2000 Poverty measurement and trends, United Nations Development Programme, SEPED Series on Poverty Reduction. United Nations, NY (www.undp.org/poverty/publications/pov_red). Casper L M, McLanahan S S, Garfinkel I 1994 The gender-poverty gap: What we can learn from other countries. Amer Sociological Rev. 59: 594-605. Christopher K, England P, McLanahan S, Ross K, Smeeding, T 2001 Gender inequality in poverty in affluent nations: The role of single motherhood and the state.” In Vleminckx K and Smeeding T (eds.), Child Well-Being, Child Poverty and Child Policy in Modern Nations: What do We Know? University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Canada, January. 10 Coleman J 1988 Social capital in the creation of human capital, Amer. J. of Sociology 94: S95-S120. Coleman J and Rainwater L 1978 Social Standing in America. Basic Books, New York. Department of Social Security 1993 Households Below Average Income, A Statistical Analysis, 1979-1993/94. Government Statistical Service, London, UK. Douthitt R A 1994 time to do the chores? Factoring home-production needs into measures of poverty. Discussion Paper No. 1030-94, Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI. England P and Folbre N 1999 Who should pay for the kids? Annals of the Amer. Assoc. of Pol. and Social Sci. 563: 194-207. Eurostat 2000 Report of the Working Group: Statistics on Income, Social Exclusion and Poverty. European Statistical Office, Luxembourg, April. Eurostat 1998 Recommendations of the Task Force on Statistics on Social Exclusion and Poverty. European Statistical Office, Luxembourg, October. Folbre N 1994 Who Pays for the Kids? Gender and the Structures of Constraint. Routledge, New York. Förster M 1993 Comparing poverty in 13 OECD countries: Traditional and synthetic approaches, Studies in Social Policy #10.. OECD, Paris, October. Gans H 1973 The positive functions of poverty. Amer. J. of Sociology 78(2). Glennester H, Lipton R, Noden P, and Power A 1999 Poverty, social exclusion and neighborhood: Studying the area bases of social exclusion. CASE paper 22, 11 Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion. London School of Economics, London UK. Gottschalk P and Smeeding T M 2000 Empirical evidence on income inequality in industrialized countries. In Atkinson A B and Bourgignon F (eds.), Handbook of Income Distribution. Elsevier-North Holland Publishers, New York, pp. 261-308. Harrington M 1981 The Other America: Poverty in the United States. Penguin, Harmondsworth, Middx. Haveman R and Mulliken M 1999 Alternatives to the official poverty measure. University of Wisconsin, Madison, November, mimeo. Hills J 1999 Social exclusion, income dynamics and public policy. Annual Sir Charles Carter Lecture, Northern Ireland Economic Council, Report No. 129, Belfast, NIEC. Jäntti, M and Danziger S 2000 Income poverty in advanced countries. In Atkinson A B and Bourguignon F (eds.), Handbook of Income Distribution. North-Holland, Amsterdam, pp. 309-378. Kenworthy L 1998 Do social-welfare policies reduce poverty? A cross-national assessment. Luxembourg Income Study Working Paper #188, Center for Policy Research, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, September. Massey D, 1996 The age of extremes: Concentrated poverty and affluence in the 21st century, Demography 33(4): 395-412. 12 Massey D S and Denton N A 1993 American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. Mayer S E and Jenks C 1993 Recent trends in economic inequality in the United States: Income versus expenditures versus material well-being. In Papadimitriou D B and Wolff E N (eds.), Poverty and Prosperity in the USA in the Twentieth Century. St. Martins Press, New York. McLanahan S, Sorensen A, and Watson D 1989 Sex differences in poverty 1950-1980, Signs: J. of Women in Culture and Society 15(11): 102-22. Miller S M 1996 The great chain of poverty explanations. In: Oyen E, Miller S M, and Samrod S A (eds.) Poverty: A Global View. Scandinavian University press, Oslo, Norway, 569-586. Mincy R, Sawhill I, and Wolf D 1990 The underclass: Definition and measurement, Science, 248: 450-453. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development 2000 Trends and driving factors in income distribution and poverty in the OECD area. Social Policies Studies Division Occasional Paper #42, OECD, Paris, August. Rainwater L 1990 Poverty and equivalence as social constructions. Luxembourg Income Study Working Paper #91, Center for Policy Research, The Maxwell School, Syracuse, NY. Ravallion M 1996 Issues in measuring and modeling poverty. Policy Research Working Paper No. 1615, World Bank, Washington, DC. 13 Ringen S 1985 Toward a third stage in the measurement of poverty, Acta Sociologica 28: 99-113. Room G J 1999 Social exclusion, solidarity and the challenge of globalization. Inter Social Welfare 8: 166-74. Ruggles P 1990 Drawing the Line: Alternative Poverty Measures and Their Implications for Public Policy. Urban Institute Press, Washington, DC. Sen A 1992 Inequality Reexamined. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. Sen A 1983 “Poor, Relatively Speaking, Oxford Econ. Papers 35: 153-169. Smeeding T M, O’Higgins M, and Rainwater L 1990 Poverty, Inequality and the Distribution of Income in an International Context: Initial Research from the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) Project. Wheatsheaf Books, London, UK and Urban Institute Press, Washington, DC. Smeeding T, Rainwater L, and Burtless G 2000 United States poverty in a crossnational context. Mimeo, Center for Policy Research, The Maxwell School. Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, August. Townsend P 1993 The International Analysis of Poverty. Harvester Wheatsheaf, London, UK. Townsend P 1979 Poverty in the United Kingdom. Penguin, Harmondsworth. UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre 2000 A League table of child poverty in rich nationsn.” Innocenti Report Card http:///www.unicef-icdc.org. 14 1, UNICEF, Florence, June. United Nations Development Programme 1999 Human Development Report. United Nations, New York, July. U.S. Bureau of the Census 1999 Poverty in the United States: 1998. Current Population Reports P60-207, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, September. Vickery C 1997 The time poor: A new look at poverty, J. of Human Resources 12(1): 27-48. Wilson J 1987 The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass and Public Policy. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL. 15 econstor A Service of zbw Make Your Publications Visible. Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft Leibniz Information Centre for Economics Smeeding, Timothy M. Working Paper Sociology of Poverty LIS Working Paper Series, No. 315 Provided in Cooperation with: Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) Suggested Citation: Smeeding, Timothy M. (2002) : Sociology of Poverty, LIS Working Paper Series, No. 315, Luxembourg Income Study (LIS), Luxembourg This Version is available at: http://hdl.handle.net/10419/160987 Standard-Nutzungsbedingungen: Terms of use: Die Dokumente auf EconStor dürfen zu eigenen wissenschaftlichen Zwecken und zum Privatgebrauch gespeichert und kopiert werden. Documents in EconStor may be saved and copied for your personal and scholarly purposes. Sie dürfen die Dokumente nicht für öffentliche oder kommerzielle Zwecke vervielfältigen, öffentlich ausstellen, öffentlich zugänglich machen, vertreiben oder anderweitig nutzen. You are not to copy documents for public or commercial purposes, to exhibit the documents publicly, to make them publicly available on the internet, or to distribute or otherwise use the documents in public. Sofern die Verfasser die Dokumente unter Open-Content-Lizenzen (insbesondere CC-Lizenzen) zur Verfügung gestellt haben sollten, gelten abweichend von diesen Nutzungsbedingungen die in der dort genannten Lizenz gewährten Nutzungsrechte. www.econstor.eu If the documents have been made available under an Open Content Licence (especially Creative Commons Licences), you may exercise further usage rights as specified in the indicated licence. Luxembourg Income Study Working Paper Series Working Paper No. 315 Sociology of Poverty Timothy Smeeding December 2002 Luxembourg Income Study (LIS), asbl FINAL Sociology of Poverty Timothy M. Smeeding, Director Center for Policy Research, and Maxwell Professor of Public Policy The Maxwell School Syracuse University 426 Eggers Hall Syracuse, NY 13244-1020 tel: (315) 443-9042 fax: (315) 443-1081 tmsmeed@maxwell.syr.edu December 2000 Abstract Sociologists and other social scientists in rich countries have long been concerned with economic and social deprivation. This entry addresses both the nature and causes of poverty from a sociological perspective and the way that sociologists and social scientists have measured poverty in national and cross-national contexts. Sociologists tend to focus on external (to the individual) explanations of poverty, such as those based on place, class, gender, economic power, and related contextual variables. Thus, poverty is almost always relative to place and context. Poverty measurement, social indicators and other measures of deprivation are also discussed in some detail and the most recent relevant literature is cited. Introduction Sociologists have long written about the topic of poverty, as have economists and other social scientists. Indeed, this International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Science (IESBS) entry is complemented by several others with similar themes. Readers may therefore want to also consult other entries as well (e.g., measurement of poverty; poverty and gender in industrialized nations). We begin with a basic description of the nature and causes of poverty as seen by sociologists, and second with the techniques used to measure poverty by sociologists and other social scientists in both national and crossnational contexts. Our study also focuses on cross-national comparisons with rich countries; those interested in poverty in developing nations should consult the IESBS entry on this topic. Sociology and Poverty Because the fundamental concept of poverty concerns itself with having too little resources or capabilities to participate fully in a society, the study of poverty has found a wide following in sociology. Sociologists have been more interested in the explanation of poverty than in its measurement, though almost all sociologists believe that poverty statistics are meaningful social indicators of basic needs (Piachaud 1987; Townsend 1973; Ringen 1985). Sociological interests in poverty center around the ideas of the “culture” of poverty and the effects of “place” on poverty. The urban—central city— ghetto aspects of this issue are well treated in the work of Wilson (1987), Massey and Denton (1993), and Massey (1996), Harrington’s classic work, The Other America, covers rural deprivation as well (Harrington 1981). Roles of culture, power, social structure, and other factors largely out of control of the individual are the main forces which sociologists use to explain poverty. The basic working hypothesis is that individuals are strongly influenced by the physical and cultural context on which they live. “Neighborhood” exerts a strong influence on behavior and concentrated poverty in central city ghettos therefore has a strong negative effect on future life chances and longrun deprivation. Indeed, in the United States, this has spawned interest in the so-called “underclass” which goes beyond poverty, alone to include all persons with dysfunctional behaviors living in “bad” neighborhoods (Mincy, Sandhill, and Wolf 1990). The European terms for a similarly disaffected population is “social exclusion” which is also beyond poverty measurement per se (Room 1999; Hills 1999; Glennester et al. 1999) Gender and household structure also frequently play a role in sociological theories of poverty (e.g., Miller 1996; Ringen 1985). As women’s roles in society often leave them with caregiving responsibilities, with low paying careers and jobs, and therefore in poor economic circumstances, poverty is often high among single female parents and elderly widows. Thus, we find a preponderance of women in poverty in most rich nations (Casper, McLanahan, and Garfinkel 1994; McLanahan, Swenson, and Watson 1989; Christopher et al. 2001). 2 In general, sociologists are critical of the economist’s perspective of free choice models whereby individuals control their own destiny and are therefore the cause of their own poverty (Piachard 1987). Some sociologists even feel that poverty has a functional role to play in capitalist society (e.g., Gans 1973). Ultimately, however, sociologists, like all other social scientists, need to first establish the breadth and depth of this social phenomenon called “poverty” before they can meaningfully analyze it and explore its ultimate causes and remedies. Thus, we turn to measures and comparisons of poverty employed by sociologists and other social scientists within and across nations. Poverty in Rich Nations: Concepts and Measures We begin by noting that poverty measurement began as an Anglo-American social indicator. In fact, “official” measures of poverty (or measures of “low income”) exist in very few nations. Only the United States (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1999) and the United Kingdom (Department of Social Security 1993) have “official” poverty series. Statistics Canada publishes the number of households with incomes below a “low income cutoff” on an irregular basis, as does the Australia government. In Northern Europe and Scandinavia the debate centers instead on the level of income at which minimum benefits for social programs should be set. In other words, their concept of insufficient “low income” is directly fed into programmatic responses to social needs (Björklund and Freeman 1997). While poverty measurement is an exercise that is particularly popular in the English-speaking countries, most rich nations share the Anglo-Saxon concern over 3 distributional outcomes and the well-being of the low-income population. There is no international consensus on guidelines for measuring poverty, but international bodies such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF 2000), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP 1999), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD 2000), and the European Statistical Office (Eurostat 1998), have published several cross-national studies of the incidence of poverty in rich countries in recent years. The large majority of these studies are based on the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) database which can be accessed remotely via internet at www.lis.ceps.lu. Some examples of these studies include Foster (1993), Jäntti and Danziger (2000), Smeeding, Rainwater, and Burtless (2000), Kenworthy (1998), and Smeeding, O’Higgins, and Rainwater (1990), many of which are directly available on line from the LIS web page. The measurement of poverty in rich nations involves the comparison of some index of household well-being with household needs. When command over economic resources falls short of needs, a household (or person or family) is classified as poor. Well-being refers to the material resources available to a household. The concern with these resources among most social scientists, including sociologists, is not with material consumption per se, but rather with the capabilities such resources give to household members so they can participate fully in society (Sen 1983, 1992). These capabilities are inputs to social activities, and participation in social activities gives rise to a particular level of well-being (Rainwater 1990; Coleman and Rainwater 1978). Methods for measuring a person’s or household’s capabilities differ according to the context in which 4 one assesses them, either over time or across nations or among subpopulations within a nation. Most sociologists recognize that all advanced societies are highly stratified (e.g., Townsend 1979). Hence, some individuals have more resources than others. The opportunities for social participation are affected by the resources that a household disposes, particularly in nations like the United States where there is heavy reliance on the market to provide such essential services as health care, post-secondary education, and child care. Money income is therefore a crucial resource. Of course, there are other important kinds of resources, such as social capital, noncash benefits, primary education, and access to basic health care, all of which add to human capabilities (Coleman 1988). These resources may be available more or less equally to all people in some societies, regardless of their money incomes. Sociologists believe that there are many forces in rich societies which reduce well-being by limiting capabilities for full participation in society, including inadequacies in neighborhoods where people live. Sociologists are therefore interested in racial discrimination, neighborhood violence, low quality public schools, lack of good jobs, and job instability, all of which increase economic insecurity, reduce human capabilities, and increase poverty (for example Massey 1996). Absolute vs. Relative Poverty An absolute poverty standard is defined in terms of a level of purchasing power that is sufficient to buy a fixed bundle of basic necessities. A relative standard, on the other hand, is defined relative to the typical income or consumption level in the wider 5 society. The purchasing power of a relative poverty standard will change over time as society-wide income or consumption levels change, an absolute poverty standard will change only with the prices of commodities. Most sociologists inherently favor the relative definition of poverty. And in fact, all measures of poverty or economic need are relative, because context is important to the definition of needs. The World Bank uses poverty measures of $1 to $2 per person per day—or $1,095 to $2,190 per year for a family of three—for the developing nations of Africa or Latin America (Ravallion 1994). In contrast, the 1998 United States “absolute” poverty threshold was $13,003 for a family of three— about 6 to 12 times the World Bank’s poverty line, while one-half of median income, the preferred relative poverty standard, was another 25 percent above this poverty line or 8 to 15 times the poverty standard in poor countries. Moreover, as economic inequality has increased in most rich societies over the past 20 years, the study of relative deprivation and poverty has taken on a new life (Gottschalk and Smeeding 2000). The link between marginalization, relative poverty, and the globalization of trade is just beginning to emerge as a topic of prime interest among sociologists (e.g., Alber and Standing 2000). In fact, cross-national comparisons of poverty in rich countries rely almost exclusively on a relative concept of poverty. Cross-national studies typically compare the percentage of persons living with income below some fraction, normally half, of the national median income. This kind of comparison is consistent with a well-established theoretical perspective on poverty (Sen 1983, 1992; Townsend 1979). However, some feel that such a standard is too low. For instance, the European Statistical Office 6 Working Group on Poverty Measurement recently recommended using 60 percent of the national median income as a common poverty threshold for European Community poverty studies in the new millennium (Eurostat 2000). Alternative Measures of Resource Poverty Because there is no single commonly accepted way to measure poverty among sociologists, there is a desire to go beyond the popularly used income poverty definition. And so there exists a wide variety of additional poverty measures which substitute for or complement the preponderance of income-based measures used by quantitative sociologists and economists (e.g., see Haveman and Mullikin 1999; Ruggles 1990; Boltvinik 2000). In principle, poverty is a multidimensional concept and should reflect several aspects of personal well-being. Forms of deprivation other than economic hardship can certainly be relevant to poverty measurement and to anti-poverty policymaking. Even restricting consideration to “economic” poverty, measures other than annual income might be used to estimate household resources. For households with fluctuating incomes, annual income can provide a poor approximation for permanent or long-run average income. Some social scientists suggest that annual consumption represents a better proxy for permanent income and hence should be preferred over annual income for measuring household resources (Haveman and Mullikin 1999). However, broad-based consumption data is more difficult to come by than is income data. A number of authors have suggested that separate measures of needs ought to be developed for different goods and services (Aaron 1995). Housing and health care are often mentioned in this context, 7 though the latter is particularly of interest in medically unequal nations such as the United States, while the former is of much greater interest in the United Kingdom (Department of Social Security 1993). Social Indicators Social indicators present an entirely different method of poverty measurement. Researchers have a long tradition of using social indicators to measure both economic hardship and affluence. Analysts often define direct measures of deprivation, such as lack of food, heat, or access to health care (Baumann 1998; Mayer and Jencks 1993). Because each household’s need is imperfectly measured by an income or consumption threshold, many households with incomes above the thresholds may still experience hardships such as hunger or face high rent payments or heavy medical expenses that prevent its members from buying enough food or fuel. Further, individual members of a household may suffer hardship because of unequal sharing of incomes within the household. In these cases, direct measures of material hardship might offer a useful indication of poverty, especially in a cross-national context, and many sociologists are therefore attracted to such measures (Mayer and Jencks 1993). Time Poor Finally, resources other than access to material goods might be important determinants of poverty. The literature in the “time poor” has grown in recent years after a nascent period. The argument is that time is often the scarcest commodity in market work-oriented societies. Further, time spent on home production is often undervalued or not valued at all. The gender bias in time use is therefore at the heart of these types of 8 analyses (Vickrey 1977; Douthitt 1994). In particular, recent research has focused on the time crunch on single parents who must both earn a living in the labor market and care for their children (England and Folbre 1999; Folbre 1994). Summary Sociologists and other social scientists have used a variety of methods to define and measure poverty. Each approach has its strengths, weaknesses. Over the past few decades, income-based poverty measures using annual assessments of household income have provided the main statistics for tracking poverty over time, across nations, and across sub-populations within nations for sociologists and for other social scientists. They have also provided important tools for testing causal hypotheses concerning the explanations, causes, and cures for poverty, including place, space, race, gender, and other popular theories of poverty in sociology. They are complemented by social indicator-based measures of inadequacy, and by the adequacy of time for market work, home work and the nurturing and care of family members. Sociological studies of poverty have both a rich heritage and have become an important area of research in increasingly unequal rich societies. 9 References Aaron H 1985 Comments on methods of measuring noncash benefits. Reported in Noncash Benefits: An Evaluation of the Census Bureau’s Measurement Confernece, PEMD-86-8BR. U.S. General Accounting Office, Washington, DC, April. Alber J and Standing G 2000 Social dumping, catching up or convergence? Europe in a comparative global context, J. of European Soc. Policy 10(2): 99-119. Björklund A and Freeman R 1997 Generating equality and eliminating poverty—the Swedish way. In Freeman R B, Topel R, and Swedenborg B (eds.), The Welfare State in Transition: Reforming the Swedish Model. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Boltvinik J 2000 Poverty measurement and trends, United Nations Development Programme, SEPED Series on Poverty Reduction. United Nations, NY (www.undp.org/poverty/publications/pov_red). Casper L M, McLanahan S S, Garfinkel I 1994 The gender-poverty gap: What we can learn from other countries. Amer Sociological Rev. 59: 594-605. Christopher K, England P, McLanahan S, Ross K, Smeeding, T 2001 Gender inequality in poverty in affluent nations: The role of single motherhood and the state.” In Vleminckx K and Smeeding T (eds.), Child Well-Being, Child Poverty and Child Policy in Modern Nations: What do We Know? University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Canada, January. 10 Coleman J 1988 Social capital in the creation of human capital, Amer. J. of Sociology 94: S95-S120. Coleman J and Rainwater L 1978 Social Standing in America. Basic Books, New York. Department of Social Security 1993 Households Below Average Income, A Statistical Analysis, 1979-1993/94. Government Statistical Service, London, UK. Douthitt R A 1994 time to do the chores? Factoring home-production needs into measures of poverty. Discussion Paper No. 1030-94, Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI. England P and Folbre N 1999 Who should pay for the kids? Annals of the Amer. Assoc. of Pol. and Social Sci. 563: 194-207. Eurostat 2000 Report of the Working Group: Statistics on Income, Social Exclusion and Poverty. European Statistical Office, Luxembourg, April. Eurostat 1998 Recommendations of the Task Force on Statistics on Social Exclusion and Poverty. European Statistical Office, Luxembourg, October. Folbre N 1994 Who Pays for the Kids? Gender and the Structures of Constraint. Routledge, New York. Förster M 1993 Comparing poverty in 13 OECD countries: Traditional and synthetic approaches, Studies in Social Policy #10.. OECD, Paris, October. Gans H 1973 The positive functions of poverty. Amer. J. of Sociology 78(2). Glennester H, Lipton R, Noden P, and Power A 1999 Poverty, social exclusion and neighborhood: Studying the area bases of social exclusion. CASE paper 22, 11 Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion. London School of Economics, London UK. Gottschalk P and Smeeding T M 2000 Empirical evidence on income inequality in industrialized countries. In Atkinson A B and Bourgignon F (eds.), Handbook of Income Distribution. Elsevier-North Holland Publishers, New York, pp. 261-308. Harrington M 1981 The Other America: Poverty in the United States. Penguin, Harmondsworth, Middx. Haveman R and Mulliken M 1999 Alternatives to the official poverty measure. University of Wisconsin, Madison, November, mimeo. Hills J 1999 Social exclusion, income dynamics and public policy. Annual Sir Charles Carter Lecture, Northern Ireland Economic Council, Report No. 129, Belfast, NIEC. Jäntti, M and Danziger S 2000 Income poverty in advanced countries. In Atkinson A B and Bourguignon F (eds.), Handbook of Income Distribution. North-Holland, Amsterdam, pp. 309-378. Kenworthy L 1998 Do social-welfare policies reduce poverty? A cross-national assessment. Luxembourg Income Study Working Paper #188, Center for Policy Research, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, September. Massey D, 1996 The age of extremes: Concentrated poverty and affluence in the 21st century, Demography 33(4): 395-412. 12 Massey D S and Denton N A 1993 American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. Mayer S E and Jenks C 1993 Recent trends in economic inequality in the United States: Income versus expenditures versus material well-being. In Papadimitriou D B and Wolff E N (eds.), Poverty and Prosperity in the USA in the Twentieth Century. St. Martins Press, New York. McLanahan S, Sorensen A, and Watson D 1989 Sex differences in poverty 1950-1980, Signs: J. of Women in Culture and Society 15(11): 102-22. Miller S M 1996 The great chain of poverty explanations. In: Oyen E, Miller S M, and Samrod S A (eds.) Poverty: A Global View. Scandinavian University press, Oslo, Norway, 569-586. Mincy R, Sawhill I, and Wolf D 1990 The underclass: Definition and measurement, Science, 248: 450-453. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development 2000 Trends and driving factors in income distribution and poverty in the OECD area. Social Policies Studies Division Occasional Paper #42, OECD, Paris, August. Rainwater L 1990 Poverty and equivalence as social constructions. Luxembourg Income Study Working Paper #91, Center for Policy Research, The Maxwell School, Syracuse, NY. Ravallion M 1996 Issues in measuring and modeling poverty. Policy Research Working Paper No. 1615, World Bank, Washington, DC. 13 Ringen S 1985 Toward a third stage in the measurement of poverty, Acta Sociologica 28: 99-113. Room G J 1999 Social exclusion, solidarity and the challenge of globalization. Inter Social Welfare 8: 166-74. Ruggles P 1990 Drawing the Line: Alternative Poverty Measures and Their Implications for Public Policy. Urban Institute Press, Washington, DC. Sen A 1992 Inequality Reexamined. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. Sen A 1983 “Poor, Relatively Speaking, Oxford Econ. Papers 35: 153-169. Smeeding T M, O’Higgins M, and Rainwater L 1990 Poverty, Inequality and the Distribution of Income in an International Context: Initial Research from the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) Project. Wheatsheaf Books, London, UK and Urban Institute Press, Washington, DC. Smeeding T, Rainwater L, and Burtless G 2000 United States poverty in a crossnational context. Mimeo, Center for Policy Research, The Maxwell School. Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, August. Townsend P 1993 The International Analysis of Poverty. Harvester Wheatsheaf, London, UK. Townsend P 1979 Poverty in the United Kingdom. Penguin, Harmondsworth. UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre 2000 A League table of child poverty in rich nationsn.” Innocenti Report Card http:///www.unicef-icdc.org. 14 1, UNICEF, Florence, June. United Nations Development Programme 1999 Human Development Report. United Nations, New York, July. U.S. Bureau of the Census 1999 Poverty in the United States: 1998. Current Population Reports P60-207, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, September. Vickery C 1997 The time poor: A new look at poverty, J. of Human Resources 12(1): 27-48. Wilson J 1987 The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass and Public Policy. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL. 15
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Sociological explanations for poverty

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Introduction
The Sociological Imagination concept as introduced by C. Wright Mills helps people to
have an overview of personal troubles within a larger social scale. By doing this, it helps us
realize the influence societal structures and institutions have on people’s lives. This essay
discusses how having a Sociological Imagination aid in understanding poverty, drawing insights
from the course materials: Timothy M. Smeeding’s “Sociology of Poverty” and Charles A.
Gallagher’s “Color-Blind Privilege: The Social and Political Functions of Erasing the Color Line
in Post Race America”. It will also give a practical example from the present to show how
having the big picture helps people in understanding the problems they have..
Understanding Poverty through a Sociological Imagination
Contextualizing Poverty
In the “Sociology of Poverty” readi...


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