The Culture of Poverty

Topics: Poverty, Sociology, Cycle of poverty Pages: 3 (951 words) Published: November 22, 2010
The Culture of Poverty
The culture of poverty is defined as a social theory that is based on the concept that the poor have a unique value system and that the poor remain in poverty because of their adaptations to the burdens of poverty. (Wikipedia, 2010) But does the culture of poverty actually exist or is it just a popular concept?

According to Oscar Lewis the culture of poverty does exist. Lewis states that “although the burdens of poverty were systemic and therefore imposed upon these members of society, they led to the formation of an autonomous subculture as children were socialized into behaviors and attitudes that perpetuated their inability to escape the underclass.” (Oscar Lewis, 1959) Lewis studied those living in poverty extensively and believed that the culture of poverty was what kept the poor from breaking the cycle and rising out of their situation. Lewis was the first to introduce this concept in the United States but he did not believe that the culture of poverty existed here but that it was only present in third world countries. Other sociologist, however, such as Michael Harrington and Walter Miller, disagree. They believe that the culture of poverty does exist here and in other advanced countries. Miller believes that “the American lower class has its own set of focal concerns that emphasize masculinity, living for the present, and luck rather than effort as the basis of success and he regards this class subculture as self-perpetuating.” (Theories of Poverty: The Culture of Poverty,, 2010) Ruby Payne is another advocate of the culture of poverty concept. Payne states that “early life experiences, relationships with other people, education and employment shape the way people think and help determine life’s priorities.  And the poor, the middle class and the wealthy have different ways of looking at things.” (Summit Explores Nature of Poverty, Sam Kusic, 2010) She also states that “understanding poor children and their...
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