Sociology Index


The theory that certain groups and individuals tend to persist in a state of poverty because they have distinct beliefs, values and behavior that are incompatible with economic success. The culture of poverty theory is a social theory that tries to explain the cycle of poverty. culture of poverty theory was discussed academic circles in the 1960s. culture of poverty theory tries to explain why poverty exists despite anti-poverty programs. Oscar Lewis was an American anthropologist contended that the culture of poverty is both an adaptation and a reaction of the poor to their marginal position due to stratification in a capitalistic society. The culture of poverty thesis is one of the most recurrent themes in American politics.

The culture of poverty thesis is controversial and is opposed by situational theory, which locates the genesis of poverty in economic and social structures of society rather than in the value orientations of individuals or groups. The culture of poverty thesis is similar to 'low class culture' theory where it has been argued by some that the lower class have developed and transmit to their children, a different set of cultural values and expectations. They also argue that culture of poverty is a barrier to the success of lower class in society.

The people in the culture of poverty thesis have a strong feeling of marginality, of helplessness, of dependency, of not belonging. They are like aliens in their own country, convinced that the existing institutions do not serve their interests and needs. Along with this feeling of powerlessness is a widespread feeling of inferiority, of personal unworthiness. This is true of the slum dwellers of Mexico City, who do not constitute a distinct ethnic or racial group and do not suffer from racial discrimination. In the United States the culture of poverty that exists in the Negroes has the additional disadvantage of racial discrimination. - Five Families: Mexican Case Studies in the Culture of Poverty (1959).

Books Culture of Poverty Thesis

Soulside : Inquiries into Ghetto Culture and Community. - Ulf Hannerz

The War Against the Poor: The Underclass and Antipoverty Policy - Herbert J. Gans

Through My Own Eyes: Single Mothers and the Cultures of Poverty
Susan Holloway, Bruce Fuller, Marylee F. Rambaud, Costanza Eggers-Pierola

The Price of Poverty: Money, Work, and Culture in the Mexican-American Barrio
Daniel Dohan

Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class : The Sociology of Group Conflict and Change (Sage Masters in Modern Social Thought) - Joseph F. Healey

The culture-of-poverty thesis and African Americans: the work of Gunnar Myrdal and other institutionalists.: An article from: Journal of Economic Issues

The value orientation test: An exploration of the culture of poverty thesis using a new projective instrument (Center research and development report)

A test of the homogeneity thesis of the culture of poverty theory: Characteristics of disadvantaged farm families (Tech. bul. / North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station).